Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Anniversary (Elaine!)

Dear Friends,

I am celebrating an anniversary!

It has been one year since I began chemotherapy for stage 3c primary peritoneal (ovarian) cancer. Today I am in remission, enjoying life, and have learned to call myself a survivor.  There were less than cheery moments when the view from the bottom of the hill was overwhelming but never enough to shake my resolve.  Brian shared my journey on this blog with candor, humor, and always with love.  Because of him, I have been connected to a unique world of family, friends, clinicians, caregivers and scientists, many of whom I never met but who have sent me wonderful messages of affection and support.

I want to share my personal reflection of that long year. It has been an everlasting challenge to make peace with things over which I have no control.  I remind myself that I cannot be angry that this unthinkable thing happened to me or that it is a result of some failure on my part. I cannot resent the people who throw health caution to the wind and go about their business without getting cancer.  And I will always be subject to the capriciousness of a disease that may choose to pursue its spiteful path again. These are things I cannot change and fighting them will do nothing but steal precious energy.

I came to appreciate family and friends in a deep and different way.  This, of course, is the universal mantra of all who survive cancer although it is impossible to grasp its importance until we face a devastating event.  And so I am grateful for the times when they were there, especially the small moments that would likely puzzle them if they knew that the visit, the phone calls, the little gifts or the emails made me smile on the toughest of days.  I loved the jokes about my bald head and the cards with wisecracks.  And most of all, I loved those who did not treat me differently or define me by my illness. 

My view of the future has changed.  The future is not ten or twenty years down the road but rather it is tomorrow, next month or next year and it is still fraught with anxiety.  The odds that I will face this again in my lifetime are very strong but Brian and I are pragmatic about it.  I have had magnificent care from doctors and medical professionals who have given me the very best they have to offer.  I am indebted to them for their skill and more importantly for their honesty about the gravity of my illness and the frustrating limitations of medicine to deliver a cure. 

Finally, I give my greatest thanks to Brian.  He has never left my side, literally or figuratively, for a second of these past fourteen months.  It was less about bravery and more about the comfort of his presence that helped me through painful hours, fearful procedures, long nights and weary days.  He has been tireless and relentless, I might add, in seeking information about research, new science, and innovative treatments.  He has seen me at my worst, has never let me lose my sense of humor, and absolutely will not let me forget for a minute that I have a condition that must be managed and monitored every day. 

I retired in January and have enjoyed the guilty pleasures of reading endlessly, painting, Yoga and taking delicious naps in the afternoon.   I elected to continue with a maintenance treatment of Avastin every three weeks for a year which we hope will hold the tumors at bay.  We have also begun to explore the possibility of targeted therapies based on genomic research.  I shall leave it up to Brian to be my voice with regard to the clinical details and efficacy of those treatment plans.  But today, as I celebrate a year of survival, I am content with life, I have a grateful spirit, and I am hopeful of the future. 



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