Friday, May 16, 2014


I completed my 18 week course of chemotherapy in late March and recovered quickly from the minimal side effects.  No hair loss!   John and I celebrated the end with a trip to Hawaii.  The warm breezes and beautiful sunsets were very healing.  Unfortunately my Ca125 tumor marker was still mildly elevated though much improved.  The PET scan showed no evidence of cancer; everyone at the cancer clinic was amazed! Now I will be receiving Avastin infusions every 3 weeks for maintenance treatment.  Luckily it has no significant side effects.

I am back to work full time now with almost full energy.

Then today I learned that my Ca 125 is in the normal range for the first time in over 18 months!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Here we go again.

I can't believe it has been over a year since I have posted anything.  At that time  was aware that I had a chemical recurrence but no other signs of the cancer.  So I waited, remaining free of symptoms.
But I kept busy.  In March, Caitlin and I met in San Francisco for our second annual girl's weekend with my mom.  In April, John and I drove back and forth to Missoula where my 90-year-old aunt was hospitalized following colon cancer surgery.  She is back in Salmon now and doing well.
In July John spoke to a meeting in Anchorage where I joined him as spouse.  While there we took a day long glacier tour of Prince William Sound.
I was still feeling great.
The end of July we flew to Budapest where we boarded a river boat headed to Amsterdam.  The next two weeks were filled with great food and sites along the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers.  It was HOT!! Over 100 degrees for the first few days of the cruise.  Sampling local beers at each stop kept us cooled down.  Though I enjoyed it all, my favorite experience of the trip was climbing up a 400 year old windmill in Holland.
Still no symptoms.
On return from Germany we decided to get a dog having been pet free since  the lovely lab Lola  died at Christmastime.  Robby, a 10 pound terrier mix, came home with us from the animal shelter.  He is affectionate, energetic, well behaved and requires several walks a day.  Mom calls him the perfect dog, and he just about is.
In October we joined John's brother and sister-in-law in Boston for the annual brother's get-together.  Managed to enjoy a lot of marvelous food and wine, some great fall foliage and big city culture. Highlights included John Singer Sargent's water colors at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the "Three Baritone's" production down town.
We returned home and I still had no symptoms.
However, during my second routine colonoscopy a tumor was found squeezing my intestinal tract down to a tiny passage way. This proved to be ovarian cancer declaring its presence again.  Before I knew it I was in Spokane again having an operation to remove the cancer and parts of my small and large intestines.
Maybe some of the occasional pain I was having in my lower right side was not just constipation.
My course was complicated by a re-admission for partial small bowel obstruction .During the hospital stay one of my friends looked at me and remarked, "It is not as easy the second time, is it?"
Which was precisely how I was feeling.
Now I am home, recovering well, eating and without significant pain.  And ready to fight the Bear again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's back

A few months before my diagnosis of ovarian cancer John and I visited Santa Fe for a conference.  Along with a red corn necklace and a bundle of sage I brought home a small carved bear that seemed to fit well in my pocket.  After my diagnosis a friend sent me a card with a black bear on the cover and a message about my struggle with "the bear."  I have since kept both bears close to remind me how cancer can lurk in the background, unseen and un-felt but still dangerous.
Then, in August, after my return from a wonderful family reunion and wedding, my Ca 125 tumor marker started to rise.  It continues to do so despite normal CT scans.  At my last appointment I heard that I officially have a recurrence of ovarian cancer, what is known as a chemical recurrence, but a recurrence none-the-less.  The bear is back.  Meanwhile I feel well, continue to work 4 days a week, enjoy bicycling and have no loss of energy.  Hmmmm.
Now starts the wait for the development of symptoms or findings on CT scan that will indicate the need for more chemotherapy.  There is no advantage to being treated with only a chemical recurrence.  Every ache or pain is suspect now, every plan for the future tentative. But like everyone else, with or without cancer, I can only continue to live one day at a time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

As each new test further reduced the likelihood of my having recurrent cancer, I relaxed and regained my equanimity. The PET scan did not give a final answer. The needle biopsy produced just some inflammatory cells, no sign of malignancy. However, the new spot remains, and there is no good answer as to what it is.
Meanwhile, I am enjoying working 4 days a week. Mondays remain open for appointments, tests, exercise and just being with my husband. Thanksgiving is coming up(my favorite holiday), and we are starting to plan for Christmas. I try to enjoy each day despite my feeling of uncertainty. A followup CT scan to check on the new spot will occur late this month.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The PET scan was another adventure. The day before I could only eat protein and non-starchy vegetables. Never thought I would miss bread and FRUIT like I did. Not only that, but I couldn't exercise, was not even supposed to take a walk. Couch potato heaven without the snacks. On the day of the test I walked from the waiting room outside to a trailer, then up on a lift to get inside. There, an IV was started in my hand and radioactive sugar injected. I had to rest in a recliner for 45 minutes, not even allowed to read, waiting for my tissues to take up the glucose. If I fidgeted too much I might have caused excessive uptake of the glucose in my muscles and thus ruined the images. So I slept. Finally into another part of the trailer for a CT scan, ho hum after all I have had.

The results were more good than bad but not definitive. The new mass was not "hot" as a cancer would be expected to be but "warm", close to normal. The next step is a needle biopsy scheduled for Monday. I can't help being optimistic as more checks fall in the NOT CANCER column. If not a recurrence, what?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last week began another routine followup, starting with blood work. I was a little frustrated as I was not able to get the results before the oncologist did, plus, I had to delay my CT scan until this Monday. As you might imagine, I was a bit anxious going in to the appointment. Though my tumor marker was the lowest it has ever been, and normal, my CT scan showed a new mass in my pelvis, small, but definitely new. This looked like a recurrence of the cancer, but why was my tumor marker normal? A PET scan is scheduled for next Monday to answer this question.
What a let down. Yesterday was my birthday and instead of celebrating, I sat in the oncologist's office with John, hearing bad news. Today I was back at work, queasy from worry, trying to enjoy the birthday surprises arranged for me. Among these was a wonderful chocolate cupcake. Mmmm. It went a long way toward improving my mood. Amazing how a group of happy, singing people could remove part of the burden I was carrying. And how attending to my patients' needs made the bad CT recede in my memory.
Thank you all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warm weather was late in arriving, waiting until the first day of summer. Our newly bought tomato plants barely held on. Though I welcome summer and being able to spend time working in the yard, I have had an unexpected response to the blue skies. I find myself remembering the days of chemotherapy last summer and how I felt, vividly, right down to the queasiness. What a bad joke, having something so beautiful remind me of those miserable days when I just sat in the recliner for hours on end. In response, I have gone outside, worked in the yard and bicycled, all of which banished the feeling, for now. Having a healthy summer will do a lot for my memories. On the other hand, just as certain smells and the song of the meadow lark bring me right back to my early childhood in Culdesac, I'm sure I will still be surprised at times by the association between glorious weather and the summer of 2010.

Happy Independence Day.