Courage and Love

Who has more courage – (1) the cancer patient who presses on with grueling treatments that are of dubious benefit in the infinitesimal hope that they will prolong life until something better comes along, or (2) the cancer patient who simply walks away, choosing to feel good for as long as she can and then seeking palliative treatments only to mitigate pain before the inevitable happens? This is a question that has plagued me for nearly as long as I’ve known that I have cancer. As you may have surmised, I put a great deal of weight in courage and bravery. I want to be remembered as a courageous person, one who, instead of running from cancer and death and begging for my life like a wild, crazed animal, stood there and stared them down, all the while acknowledging and embracing the reality and my fear, anger and sadness that is reflective of an aspirational inner strength, dignity, grace and beauty. But which path produces that result? Based on how we as a society seem to love sports stories and movies about protagonists overcoming impossible odds, I believe the general consensus and more popular view is (1). I understand that – the long-suffering patient who endures so much to spend just one more day with her loved ones, even if it comes at an incredible emotional and physical toll. But then again, it takes tremendous courage to stop all treatments and to let the disease run its course, because then gone is any semblance of a safety net as that person invites death to quicken its arrival. Isn’t that person then truly staring death in the face? Isn’t that person then choosing death on her own terms with dignity and grace? Or is that person truly a coward, a horrible wife and mother, too weakened, defeated and exhausted to fight any longer, not even for the faintest promise of one more day with her beloved children, handicapped by an inferior love that does have limits?  More

Chipper

Five weeks ago I had my laparoscopic oophorectomy. Shockingly (or perhaps not so shockingly since the new puppy came into my life four weeks ago), it has taken me this long to write a blog post to inform all you non-Facebook readers how the surgery went and to provide additional information on the findings from the final pathology (which I have not shared broadly with anyone). My left ovary was about two to three centimeters bigger than it should have been. An intraoperative biopsy was performed on the left ovary which confirmed that the growth (which was inside the ovary) was metastatic colon cancer. About one cubic centimeter of that cancerous tissue was immediately handed over to a courier for transport to a laboratory across the river in New Jersey where portions of it were successfully implanted into five mice, a very good number I am told. I believe my mice have been moved since down to Baltimore to the main laboratory. I will know in a couple weeks where the graft of my cancer cells into these mice has taken hold and, if so, they will be cloned for personalized experimentation. While the right ovary looked normal, out of an abundance of caution, it was also removed, together with my fallopian tubes. As the final pathology would later reveal, appearances were deceptive and the right ovary tested positive for metastatic colon cancer as well. All else looked normal in the abdomen, including all organs located therein as well as my peritoneum. Forty milliliters of ascites – fluid – was found, however. The word “ascites” terrifies me; I often hear it associated with end-stage cancer, where hundreds of milliliters can build up in the abdomen as the cancer overruns the body. Fortunately the pathology report declared the ascites to be negative. The surgeon also flooded my abdominal cavity with saline, then withdrew it and had it tested for cancer, something that was also done during my post-HIPEC diagnostic laparoscopy in October 2014. That saline was negative for cancer, as it was in October 2014. If indeed there is no cancer in my abdominal cavity, then it certainly indicates that the HIPEC surgical treatment from March 2014 has withstood the cancer assault well. More