Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One year later

One year ago today, Mike came home from a doctor’s appointment and handed me a piece of paper with the words "carcinoma of unknown primary."

We’d thought he had lymphoma that could be treated with radiation. But the surgical biopsy he’d had the week before indicated something much more sinister.

I couldn’t comprehend what he was telling me. If it said "unknown," were they sure it was even cancer? Since it’s "unknown," then it couldn’t be that serious, right?

So I did what the journalist in me does in these situations: I googled it. This is what popped up: "The prognosis for patients with CUP is poor. As a group, the median survival is approximately 3 to 4 months."

My heart literally stopped beating. When I think back about that moment, I can almost feel the same concrete block on my chest. Mike and I just stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity. It’s an understatement to call that the lowest point in what quickly became the roller coaster of our lives.

Another low point: sitting alone in the hospital waiting room while Mike was having surgery the next week to biopsy a suspicious area in his chest. The doctor came out to tell me yes, it was more cancer, and it was very serious and all he could tell me to do was pray.

Shortly after, we went to the Moffitt Cancer Center where the doctors said Mike stood a good chance of fighting this thing. We were up.

Then the chemo started, and Mike’s face and head broke out in a rash and his hair started coming out in clumps and then we found out not only wasn’t it working, but the cancer had gotten worse... Down down down.

A new drug promised new hope. Up. The insurance company rejected it. Down.

We learned about Dr. Greco and we got in to see him. Our co-workers overwhelmed us with their generosity in funding our trip there. We got word the tumors were shrinking ... Up up up.

Some days
I am so angry that this is happening to us. I think, we just got married, we have this beautiful perfect baby. Where is our happily ever after, damn it? Mike is such a good, kind and funny person. This should not be happening to him.

It sickens me that at 33, I have to consider being a widow and how I will raise my daughter alone and how I will even keep a roof over her head let alone give her the kind of life Mike and I want for her.

It scares me to the core that there might come a day when he's too sick to get out of bed, or God forbid, in pain. But the worst thing, the very worst thing, is that Julia might not know her dada.

Other days, I am at peace with what is happening. I am confident that we will all be OK. Mike is strong, he can fight this. If you saw him, you wouldn't even know he was sick. My heart overflows with how much love and support we have from our family and friends.

After spending a day in the chemo room with some really sick people, I feel incredibly blessed. Things could be so much worse, I tell myself.
I'm not a religious fanatic but I do believe and I take comfort in knowing there is a plan for all of us. I start my day with the prayer of St. Therese: May you find peace within. May you trust in God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

I'm not sure if anything profound has come out of our year of madness. I'm not even sure it's changed us -- we still laugh, we still fight, we still go to work and raise our daughter. But one thing I have learned is to focus on the small moments in life. There is so much joy there -- eavesdropping on Mike reading Cinderella to Julia, jumping into the pool on a hot day, the three of us holding hands on the beach, Sunday dinners.

That's probably a decent mindset, cancer or not.
It does no good to wander down the dark paths. I frankly don't have time. I try not to think too far ahead. I think about right now, and right now, one year later, things are good. At least I have this day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Waiting and watching

We're taking a break from cancer. That's right. We're going to live like normal people -- well, as normal as Mike and I can be...

We got a call from the doctor's office on Monday that Mike's scans were stable. Not worse, not better. I'll admit it was a real downer for our day. But after we went to see Dr. Neel today, we feel much better.

He seems to think that it's time for Mike to rest. He's had 26 chemo treatments over the past year. Dr. Neel told us the cancer is not at a life-threatening point (what a relief it was to hear those words!!!) so we're going to monitor things for a while and see what happens. He thinks Mike's body needs some time to recover before starting a brand new regimen anyway. Mike will see the doctor every month and still have scans.

Our first question of course was what if the cancer just starts running amok and we don't know about it. Dr. Neel says that 95 percent of cancers grow before they spread, so we would see the lump in Mike's neck get bigger. He also says that if it gets bigger in a couple weeks, Mike will go right back on the chemo he was on before. That would be a sign that the drugs were still working, even though the scans were stable.

I'm rambling with a lot of medical stuff. Does any of this make sense? Bottom line: The cancer is still there, but it's not life threatening at the moment, so we're going to monitor the situation for a while.

So, we're going on vacation!! Mike, Julia and I are going to Siesta Key for three heavenly days in June. It's often ranked as one of the top beaches by Dr. Beach. White sands, people! White sands. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter, part 2

What a fun, busy couple of weeks. My best friend from college, the lovely Tara Dawn, came to visit, followed by the Casales, and of course, the Easter bunny. Thank goodness he knew Julia loves Cinderella, because he brought her the movie and some cute PJs.

And he hid eggs all over the yard.

Some were pretty tricky to find, right Mad?

And of course, Easter means a cute new dress. Right?

Having guests is always an excuse to take a walk on the beach. I just looove this picture of Julia with her cousins Madison and Nick. And man, does Julia love them.

And one final pic of my cute little family.

This week is scan week. We see Dr. Neel again on Tuesday, the 21st. Hopefully, we'll get a phone call beforehand. The waiting is the worst. We got the distinct impression from the doctor the last time not to expect a whole lot this time around.

The progress was slowing. So we're sort of bracing for news that nothing changed, in which case, we'll be back at square one. But I have to say, in the past week, it looks to me like the lump in Mike's neck is smaller. Maybe it's just my mind playing tricks on me. Maybe it's wishful thinking. I don't want to get my hopes up. Guess we'll know for sure in six days.

Say a little prayer, please.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter egg madness

We took Julia to an Easter egg hunt in our neighborhood park this weekend. I didn't quite know what to expect, but it turns out an egg hunt for the under-3 set isn't so much a hunt, as it is hundreds of eggs strewn across a soccer field in plain sight that are snatched up in less than 30 seconds.

Our sweet girl got one egg. And man, was she proud of it!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


My girl is such a ham with her hat and glasses and necklaces...

I love the picture of Julia and me on the bottom. Her new thing is "helping" me make dinner. She mostly likes to stand on the chair in the kitchen. But she has this adorable little cutting board set with a wooden knife and fake little food that you can cut (it reattaches with velcro).

Oh, and the top middle picture -- that's the potty chart. You will see that it has ONE sticker. That is the only sticker for the entire month of March. HELP!!!