progression, transition

Starting with the meeting with my oncologist at 9:30 yesterday and walking out the door finally at 4:00 after three other appointments, ending with  my internal medicine specialist, I was exhausted but relieved. Knowing that the cancer is progressing is not good news, of course, but having an oncologist who is both straightforward and encouraging is most welcome. She always reminds me that I am not just a statistic, nor am I that number on the lab report that says “poor prognosis,” but I am a whole person; and that’s who she treats: me, the whole person, not the CTC number 8 or the rising tumor markers or the bright spots on the scan.

With patients now having access to their reports, which many sit and pore over in the quiet of solitude, it is easy to panic at the sight of a negative change in tumor markers or other disease measurements or the bright spots on a scan. But the fact of the matter is that these are all pieces that need to be assessed together with many other factors outside the test results and lab reports. We are all individuals with our own vitality and our own special attributes that can affect the outcome of our treatment in spite of any summary report or averaging of numbers.

I do look at the reports, the scans and the numbers, like the average time of survival for someone with my test report being ten months, and I listen to the professional opinions of those who are trained to deal with all of this information. I hope for a lot, I read a lot, I try to understand it all, but in the end I rely on the expert advice of those who are working together on my case to achieve the best possible outcome. I believe they are sincere and that they want me to live as long as possible. I know they understand that this is my goal, as well. We are all on the same page. That is what is important to me. When I speak with the physicians and other medical staff who comprise the team that is taking care of me, I am confident that they are working together as much as they are all working with me.

That is what gives me the best advantage in my own PFS, progression free survival, and OS, overall survival: the two gold standards in treatment of metastatic cancer. As long as I know this, I avoid studying the single number, the rising tumor markers and the bright white sparks on the scans, and, instead, I stand back to look at the big picture. And, I see myself as part of that big picture and not as a sum of the test results. I’m the part of that picture that may be more important than any single report or even all of them combined. And, alongside me is my husband, my caregiver, my hero. His love and support make me strong, and he always reminds me of the big picture. Never failing to reassure, to soothe and to cajole, he helps me keep it together even during those moments when strength seems to be shattering into fragile pieces.

Progression is frightening, to say the least, but I choose to see it as a transition that I will navigate with my medical dream team and my hero husband. That’s how I choose to think of it, and choosing how I think is at least one way of asserting my belief that I still have options to exercise despite a disease that too often buries our personal choices.

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© 2004–2012 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.


6 responses to “progression, transition

  1. BreastCancerSisterhood

    Oh Donna,
    You are part of the big picture of heroic women who endure and fight and live life in moments of unthinkable fear and who savor joy in the smallest of things. You are beauty and grace and I send you all my love and prayers and ask God to give you strength and options. Lots of options.

  2. A very insightful post. You and your team will have a plan for this new phase of your journey. Thinking of you.

  3. Donna,
    I recently discovered your amazing blog and have been addicted, so to speak ever since. Your eloquence and clarity are absolutely captivating and hit home so deeply with my only journey with MBC. Thank you, particularly, for this most recent post. I am at five years next Saturday, three with MBC and had my scans on Thursday. I am anxiously awaiting my marathon day of appointments and am somehow invigorated by your incredible perspective on your own news. It arms me with the confidence that no matter what the results I can take it and I am so beyond grateful for your presence in the blogosphere. I wish you the very best and continued staying power. Thank you for being you.
    best wishes, Michelle

  4. Donna,
    I agree with Michelle that your eloquence and clarity are absolutely captivating.I am currently in the same shoes facing the progression.It is almost as hard as hearing the first cancer diagnosis.
    As Jill Cohen wrote in one of her blogs” No one can walk the cancer road with us unless they themselfs have been diagnosed with cancer or another major illness.No one can really understand how we live facing our own mortality on a daily basis”
    Thinking of you.

  5. An excellent reminder that we still do have the power to make SOME choices, no matter the circumstances of our condition on paper/cd.

    I am blessed to be holding your hand in spirit as we journey down this bit of road together. It’s sometimes dark and scary, but always comforting to hear your voice…


  6. Beautifully stated, Donna. Sending love and light.


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