Anxious countdown: 12, 11, 10 days until surgery. Nine days until I have new incisions -- will they be big or small? Will they break my sternum again? Will I leave the hospital with all my organs? Or will my spleen and the tail of my pancreas be staying behind? Such a twisted knot of emotions, desperately wanting yet equally dreading surgery. I am trying not to think about the struggle of recovery but instead focus on the goal. Eight days until cancer free!! [...]
Michelle Kendall - Journal
Read Entries & Updates
I started yesterday at Hospice, having a more emotional than usual chat with my counselor, Ginny. Bless her for holding space for a really good cry and purge of a huge pile of "anticipatory grief." I was feeling fragile, mortal, and pessimistic. Then I moseyed into Dr. Sekhon's office for a routine check-in. Shocker, my CA marker fell from 37 to 22! A 15 point drop, 40% reduction in 5 weeks. With all the anticipation of surgery, I had sort of forgotten this was the first blood check since going high dose. The universe cracked open; my mind was zinging around. What does this mean? This reduction is as large as any I had during chemo. But I'm not on chemo, I'm not even on Avastin. I'm on high dose THC. THC! Since my last blood draw, I have gradually increased my daily THC dosage to about 60mg daily. I am now convinced that THC has a dramatic effect on my cancer cells. Dr. Sekhon was not quite speechless, but certainly amazed. Her words of wisdom -- "one data point does not make a trend"-- but we agreed on another blood test before surgery. I will continue with my dosing and look forward to reporting back on my CA 125 on May 13 at my pre-op physical. Surgery is set for May 15th. Until then I will study up. Does anybody know a pharmacologist with an interest in cannabis? I feel like I was just plucked from my life into a Hollywood plot where I have to find a cure for my own cancer.[...]
Bruce and I met with Dr. Rodrigues, who I can now officially call my new Gyn-Onc surgeon. We had a comprehensive visit, discussing my medical history and the details of a second debulking surgery. We do not have a surgery date yet because she is coordinating with Dr. Conway, who will be scrubbing in and going after the "hot" lymph node adjacent to my pancreas. I am relieved that they hope the procedure could be laparoscopic. No promises; everything could change when they get in there, but I am hopeful. As much as I want a debulking surgery I hope it will be easier than the first go around. Mom, no peeking. I was looking at this post-op picture, trying to get psyched up. If I navigated my way through a 52 staple incision surely I can manage a little laparoscopic surgery. I could be in hospital only 2 days -- I can do this! But then there is more chemo/immunotherapy. It's a long long row to hoe. We meet with Dr. Sekhon again next week, where we will likely get more details on the drug regime she has planned for after surgery. The goal is to hopefully get me back into a good solid year-long remission. We will keep fighting on and finding joy in today. [...]
Wednesday morning I was on the surgery table, drifting through a light anesthesia with memories of family luaus, coral reefs, and manta rays sloshing in my head. What a lovely Hawaiian adventure. Thank you, Mom, Jim, and Donna for traveling with us. And thanks to the crew of Uncruise for an amazing week. How is it possible? -- last week I was kayaking and snorkeling but this week I wake from surgery after having a port "installed." I don't know how to make sense of this reality. The boundary between health and wellness from disease and illness is territory I am still, after 3 years, learning to navigate. [...]
On Tuesday afternoon we meet with my oncologist, Dr. Sekhon. The expected was confirmed; I am in recurrence. My CA 125 marker crept up another 3 points, to 37. The PET scan showed only one tumor, near my pancreas. You know you're in a bad way when that sounds like good news, but it did. One tumor is better than last time when I was husbanding a small flock of them. The Avastin infusions likely deserve credit for limiting the cell's ability to form tumors. Glad that $16,000 drug was doing something! Dr. S wanted more imaging, so Wednesday morning I was in the MRI tube. By Wednesday afternoon my PA called with those results. It looks like I am a candidate for surgery and radiation, which is atypical for recurrent OC patients. I am pleased to have treatment choices; it helps disperse the burden on my body. I know surgery is hard, I am guessing radiation is hard, but they are hard in different ways than chemo. I am hoping for surgery because data suggests a second debulking offers 18 months longer progression-free survival. Another new strategy I'm pushing for is heated intraperitoneal chemo. I have read it's very toxic and a tough go, but it improves disease-free progression. I am all in -- we are fighting back! [...]
Today is my 3rd rebirthday. While it is important to acknowledge this milestone, I am not feeling very celebratory. The inevitable has been relentlessly creeping closer. My CA marker was up to 34, putting me at the threshold of recurrence. I have a PET scan scheduled for March 15th. If the scan shows only two or three tumors I could have surgery. This is unlikely, as recurrent OC tends to spread diffusely throughout the abdomen. I will have a needle or laparoscopic biopsy of tumor tissue for genetic testing. After surgery in Oxford, my complete genome was sequenced, but because tumor cells grow quickly they have mutation change. We need fresh samples to find mutations which could make the tumors susceptible to immunotherapy. Most likely my next offensive will be chemo starting in early April. After 6 months of chemo the hope will be for another 10-month remission. [...]
Two days ago I returned home from a lovely week in Breckenridge with my parents. We marveled at the icy art of the International Snow Sculpture Championships, took magical snow hikes, watched moose eat willows in the front yard, and played with Bernerdoodle puppy Izzy. Thanks, Mom and Jim, for a nice visit. [...]
It's that time of year when as a nation we collectively count our blessings. For me, that has become a daily practice. There are not enough synonyms in the OED to capture how grateful I am. I am humbled by the efforts of so many people: my oncologists, surgeons, infusion nurses, wellness staff, and Avastin researchers. I am grateful to all of you for every day. THANK YOU! And a thousand thanks to my devoted Husby Bruce, parents, and friends who continue to shower me with love and support. [...]
We returned home from an amazing Australian Adventure to the final stages of a bathroom remodeling adventure. We are thrilled two have two beautiful working bathrooms and one working shower. We are only waiting for the master glass door. Woo hoo -- it was a hectic summer of being displaced, but totally worth it for our fabulous new WC's. (Thanks, Libby!) No house is complete without a pet, so we are also excited to welcome Cooper home today. Thanks to my parents who flew him from Denver. Now that the house is put back together, all is tidy and my desk is functional again, I can work on photos, so . . . back to Australia, the fourth and last trip in our crazy summer of travel. [...]
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