Wow, I really have some catching up to do! Looks like I last posted right before the Fourth of July holiday. I will try to do a brief synopsis of July (you know, though, that brevity is not my strong suit!).
I was able to enjoy the weekend before the Fourth with the Sommers/Sawicki side of the family up at Todd Lake. We were fortunate that all of our kids were able to join us as well! I had lots of help getting around, up and down, in and out of the boat, etc from my boys and all our Todd Lake friends. I continued the BRAF meds, did not have any negative side effects, and just had a great time. Managed the pain by increasing the pain meds as instructed by Dr. Lao's office.
For the weekend after the Fourth (since the Fourth was on a Wednesday, wasn't that grand), we joined our high school friends at the Myny's new lake house. Again all of our kids were able to join us, and we had lots of hands and manpower to help me get around. I took it very easy on the Fourth, I stayed on the boat and didn't even go on the sand bar, but despite my best efforts, I woke up Thursday morning with terrible neck and shoulder pain. Thought I busted up my right clavicle again. I think, though, that I was turning my head constantly on Wednesday to chat with people, follow the sand bar action, watch impressive boats go by, and watch all the other fun things that go on at sand bars in the lake on holiday weekends. Not even my pain meds could bring the clavicle/shoulder pain down. It got a little better each day, and it was about 7 days before I started being able to use my right arm and hand. It's all better now, I'm happy to report.
I was also fortunate enough to spend the weekend of July 12-15 at a horseshow in Kentucky with my daughter. Now that might sound fancy, but don't go thinking that I was running through the bluegrass-covered hills of Kentucky like Maria in the Sound of Music. Again I lined up many hands to attend the show with me and help my daughter Natalie with any and all horseshow things. Jill drove us down and would have taken Natalie to the show even if I wasn't well enough to go. Another of my besties, Shannon, and her daughter drove up from Georgia to join us for the weekend and helped groom for Nat. Carla, the owner of the wonderful horse that she let Nat ride and show this season, trailered the horse and tack down and was always there to lend a helping hand. My only job was to sit in the golf cart and supervise from afar. This show was a bucket list item for me (maybe I wrote that somewhere before, it feels familiar). This horseshow is a show that my bestie Jill and I used to attend with our horses back in the early 2000's, and it takes place on the same competition grounds that the best riders in the nation and the world come to compete on in April each year. I wanted desperately to be there the first time my daughter rode that course. I'm so grateful that it worked out that I could be.
That sounds great and fun, right? Well, I guess to a certain extent it was, but don't be misled: there were challenges each time I was away from home, I'm just grateful that I always had a lot of help around me to get through them. So, a few days after returning from Kentucky, "it" started to hit the fan. I started having the shortness of breath, and it wasn't going away this time. At first it happened only upon exertion, like walking a distance or having a lengthy conversation. The shortness of breath just continued to increase in frequency and severity, it started including a cough that really rocked my whole torso each time. My lower back became more and more painful, and I still had pain in my upper back that harkened back to the spinal fusion surgery. During this time, my radiation oncologist noticed a spot in my lower back on the edge of one of my scans, so she ordered a more detailed scan of the area in question. That revealed a small tumor in my spinal cord near the T8 region. As you can imagine, this is not good. It is not causing any problems or symptoms right now, but if it continues to grow, it will be a significant problem. So, radiation of that area, ten treatments. First treatment was Monday, July 30, and I was scheduled for radiation each day that week as well as each day the following week. Not really great timing, but I'll make it work.
Upon concluding my radiation treatment yesterday (August 1), Dr. Kim noticed my breathing was very labored. She sent me over to the ER and I was promptly admitted. So, I sit here typing this update from the hospital. Long story short, I have a pretty large tumor in the lower region of my left lung that is putting pressure on the breathing airways. I went through a lot of diagnostics today. There isn't much they can do other than - can you guess? - If you said radiation, you're a winner! The thing with radiation is that it is a slow process, can take 10-12 weeks for max effectiveness. There isn't any short-term relief they can offer me. Also, and this is the worst news: the lung mass grew significantly while I was taking the BRAF meds. And it grew despite the immunotherapy (nivolumab) that I had in February and March. Dr. Lao says this tells him that immunotherapy isn't really working for me. (Insert tears and swear words here. By me, not Dr. Lao.) Dr. Lao did say that a new BRAF med was just recently approved, there isn't much info about it and there are no stats, but it is supposed to be a bit more "strong" than the other BRAF meds that I have been taking, so we are just going to try it and see what happens. Otherwise I could try traditional chemo. Yay me. Of course the revolutionary breakthrough cancer-fighting immunotherapies would not work on me. That is how it always goes for me. It's too much to wrap my head around. I guess just please pray this new BRAF inhibitor WORKS and SHRINKS my tumors. I need it to work. It's my only hope, Obi Wan.
I'm not sure how long I will be in the hospital. If I've learned one thing, it's that if I don't get out of here tomorrow (Friday), then I'll be here until at least Monday (no one is around over the weekend to do discharges!).
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Wear your sunscreen, folks. Love you.