October 15th, 2019 was the last time I had a Gemzar Abraxane infusion (chemo therapy) for my pancreas cancer that had metastasized to my lungs. The decision to stop treatment was one I made prayerfully and on my own. As a six year survivor of a lethal cancer with a five year survival rate of single digits, this was a bold move.
My Mayo oncologist, Dr. Mody’s reaction to my decision was surprisingly positive. Last fall I was feeling the effects of prolonged treatment and could actually taste, smell and feel the chemo that had been a part of my life since July 2017 when it was discovered the cancer had moved to my lungs. But, I had become so fatigued and ill, he agreed I needed a break. The holidays were approaching and I wanted to be able to enjoy every moment with my family and most of all my grandchildren who asked when they walked into the house, “Mia, are you in bed today?”
In January of 2018, a CT scan revealed one of my numerous lung spots had doubled in size. It was recommended that chemo be administered every two weeks. So, for as many months I had endured the treatment that would produce flu like symptoms days after and keep me weakened and nauseous.
In mid October of 2019, I contracted an intestinal virus somehow that caused me extreme vomiting and diarrhea and landed me in the hospital for five days. However, the nausea continued after the virus subsided.
The oncologist described my condition beyond the virus as nausea brought on by prolonged chemotherapy…something in my head!
If you follow my blog you know I am a faith filled person. I consider myself to be strong and able to handle discomfort pretty well. While I know the dire statistics that come with this diagnosis, I face life with confidence that God is in control. He determines when He will call me home, not the doctors who treat me with the science He has given them.
I believe He has work for me to do to increase awareness and fight for much needed research that will one day find an early detection for this cancer that kills nearly 20% of us diagnosed within one year.
In the last six years my husband, family, doctors and close friends have supported me unconditionally. They have provided the care I need, whatever it might be, along each set back. God and they have seen me thru some very difficult times.
But, this cancer, that I now look at as a blessing in our lives, has given us so many positive changes. It has brought our family closer to God, closer to one another and also empowered us to start a foundation to fund important research that will result in a simple test that could be administered to patients presenting with family history, predisposition or early symptoms that have been dismissed in the past as other less serious digestive issues.
Every six to eight weeks I go to Mayo for scans and bloodwork to determine the status of my cancer. It is always a time of anxiety and concern as the date approaches. However, I have learned to listen to my body and believe that while I am feeling as good as I can, the cancer must still be at bay.
The last three scans have reported as “stable”. This means that the 13 spots in my lungs, while still evident and growing very slowly, are not at this moment out of control.
I chose to carry on and take in each breath enjoying my family and friends in gratitude for the life we have been blessed with so abundantly until the day …
…the shoe drops.