Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Finished My 36th Infusion

Hi all.  I've officially completed 9 cycles of chemo.  That's 36 infusions since December 2010, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for a third time.  I have no idea how many more infusions lie ahead.  Until they stop working, I suppose.

Speaking of them not working anymore, I had a PET scan earlier this week and I'm worried.  Two previous scans showed I was making good progress.  Tumors were shrinking in size or "fading" in density (my translation).  It felt great to hear.  I was ecstatic.  This time, however, I'm really nervous about the results.  I know the clock is ticking.  I know the ride can only last so long. Eventually the chemo train will return to the station.

If I'm reading them right, some studies of the clinical trial drug I'm being given report that patients lived about 5 months longer, on average, than if they hadn't received the drug.  And if I've extrapolated the numbers correctly, the benchmark for starting the 5-months-longer meter is 7 months.  I'm at the end of my 7th month.  I'm terrified that the effectiveness of my chemo has either slowed or already stopped working and that the 12 month window is closing-in on me.  But it's not the studies that are influencing me, at least not consciously.  Rather, it's my intuition that's eating at me, and I pray it's wrong.

I meet with my oncologist on Monday, August 1, to discuss my scan results.  For the first time, I almost don't want to know.  I'm feeling down but I know I must press on.  "I can do it.  I can beat this thing."  It's all I can think about.  There will come a day when I can no longer outrun this. There will be a time when I'm too weary to fight anymore.  But fortunately, today is not that day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vacation Details

Okay, let's see.  Where were we?  Oh yeah, our shuttle launch vacation.  First, let's talk transportation. Don't ever fly through Atlanta on Delta Airlines if you can avoid it.   Prior to winning the launch lottery, my nephew, Michael, and niece-in-law Alicia, were planning to spend the 4th of July holiday here.  They had already purchased Delta tickets to fly to/from Dulles from their home in Atlanta.  When we won the launch tickets (notice I said "we"), they simply tacked-on another flight from Atlanta to Melbourne, FL. 

Initially I had no idea that Michael and Alicia were planning to fly into Melbourne, but it just so happened that that's where I wanted to fly rather than into Orlando, and the only way to get there from Dulles was on Delta via a stop in Atlanta.  Naturally we opted to take the same flights as Michael and Alicia.  It worked out great in terms of all six of us spending more quality time with eachother, sharing rides to/from the airports, sharing the car rental and condo, etc.  But that's where the greatness ended.

To start with, the flights were very crowded.  On both legs to FL -- from Dulles to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Melbourne -- most of us were separated, and Stephanie and I were seated near the engine. On the first flight we were right next to it, and on the second flight we were directly in front of it.  It was awful. The engine noise is obnoxiously loud.  To add to the insult, our connecting flight from Atlanta to Melbourne was delayed for an hour.  Apparently Delta was missing an entire crew.  Delay number 1.

On the way back, our flight from Melbourne was delayed because our plane, which was coming from Atlanta, was late leaving Atlanta and thus late arriving in Melbourne.  Delay number 2.  Once on the plane from Melbourne, we arrived in Atlanta 5 minutes too late to catch our connecting flight to Dulles. The next flight was two hours later.  Delay number 3.  Needless to say, we weren't very happy about it. 

Fortunately, Alicia was adept at expressing to the gate supervisor that it was the Delta's fault we were late and they owed us some sort of compensation.  Atlanta was her final destination so it didn't really matter to her that we were late, but she fanagled $200 worth of vouchers for future flights and about $45 in meal vouchers so that we could go have something to eat while waiting for the next plane.  That turned out to be a good thing, because our substitute flight ended-up late too!  Delay number 4.  We finally flew out of Atlanta and got back home to Dulles about three hours later than originally scheduled.  Amazingly, I didn't get my panties in a twist the whole time!  With 3 out of 4 flights operating behind schedule (and all due to one airline and one airport), I normally would've been agitated.  But for some reason, right from day one, I just accepted these and any other inconveniences as part of the whole vacation package, and that seemed to make everything okay. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roger That; We Have a Go

We're back from our Cape Canaveral vacation. I'll tell you more about the adventures and events surrounding the launch, but suffice it to say that the trip was definitely "an experience."

The launch was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I can't describe how good it felt to watch. I was always amazed when I saw newscasts of previous launches. But to be there live? STUNNING! I just loved it; and my admiration and affection for the shuttle - for what it is and what it represents - has only grown more rooted now.

The simplicity of the shuttle's lines as it clung to the fuel tank, the rumbling and thunder of its rockets, the marshmallow clouds and brilliant light... "AWEsome" in the purest sense of the word. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the shuttle seemed both vulnerable and almighty as it lifted from the earth and soared.

Despite my joy at seeing the launch, I'm genuinely saddened that we're losing such an icon of America's strength and achievements, and a show of its mettle. The now-empty launch pad will stand as a ghostly sign of our nation's declining leadership status among the world (in my opinion) and a foreboding symbol of where I think this country is headed.

I'm so grateful I was there to witness a piece of our history; it's truly the end of an era.

Now that we're home from our trip, it's back to earth, back to reality. And unfortunately, it's back to chemo. T-9 hrs and counting.