Friday, October 26, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 11

“Something Good Could Happen!” Ema wrote that in large, block letters on a sheet of note paper then taped it next to the computer monitor in our bedroom. You can see it from any point in the room, and I find myself glancing at it often – especially in the quiet of the evening after the kids have gone to bed. I like the simplicity of it, the humbleness, and the fact that it so adequately summarizes our struggle to stay optimistic in the face of this disease.

Ema is scheduled to go in on Monday to get a PET/CT scan. This will show any hotbeds of cellular activity in her body. Generally speaking, you don't want any 'hotbeds' of cell clusters growing wildly in your body. That's a sure sign of cellular malfunction. In Ema's case, this will indicate cancer cells forming tumors. So, here we go again with more tests, more fingers crossing, more praying, more waiting.

I’m thinking of adding another note to adorn the left side of the monitor. It will read, “We Have Today.” That’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. In a world where anything can happen at any time – fire storms, accidents, cancer – that message seems to be both universal and personal at the same time. There’s that theme again – the more personal you become, the more universal you become as well. See – like it or not, we’re all in this together. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

- Tom

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 10

Thought I'd add a happy photo to the blog for once. I took this one last weekend at the annual St. Hedwig Autumn Festival at the high school up the street.

10/21/07 - Ema and I went out on a dinner date tonight for the first time since before the news of her cancer. The hostess led us through the crowded restaurant at a pace much too fast for Ema who had forgotten her cane at home. I walked behind her, told her to take her time and ignore the hostess's rapid gait. She did, and as she walked, I thought about how proud I was of her for being so brave. In her mind, of course, she's scared to death, but to me she's a fighter, a survivor. The hostess stopped at a corner and stood with our menus at her side in a posture that told us that she was sorry for getting so far ahead. This abrupt world has little patience for the wounded, slow-footed soldier. Cancer certainly waits for no one. But tonight we held our ground. We went on a date, toasted to survival, and for the first time since this all began, stared the enemy back into the shadows. This was our time, and at least for tonight, this disease would just have to wait.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 9

Ema and I are feeling the weight of the reality that is 'living with cancer.' After a terrifying first month we came into a period of relative relief as test results showed no signs of metastasis. Then the meeting with the sarcoma specialist at UCLA confirmed the gravity of our situation. No bad news, per say, just nothing real positive to hang our hopes on. Further meetings of the sarcoma team brought a confirmation on the tumor type - a high grade, undifferentiated, malignant pleomorphic sarcoma. I plugged that tongue twister into Wikipedia, and it came back with an error message stating that three server farms exploded while trying to find information on it. Don't bother looking it up on Google either. It's so rare that you'll be lucky to find a few scattered, obscure clinical trials dating back to sometime before the death of disco.

Ema is still in pain. The surgery site is healing great, but her calf muscle is extremely sore. I can't imagine why. Slicing 1/3rd of my calf muscle away from the connecting tissue then folding it 180 degrees back upon itself and stuffing it into a crater below my knee the size of a baseball sounds like a walk in the park for me. But remember folks, I'm the one who underwent voluntary throat surgery last March just to get good material for the podcast. Ema is behind me on the bed, reading. She just said "hey - add this into the blog - Pain is your body's way of letting you know you're still alive." "Okay honey - I'll add it. Now let's get some rest; you're gonna need it next week when the radiation treatments start."

G'night folks,


P.S. - I know I've been promising this for some time, but we are actually going to try to record a podcast episode this weekend. Stay tuned, and send us an email or leave a comment here. We love hearing from you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal - 8

Ema update 10/06/07 - Ema and I met with the sarcoma specialist at UCLA yesterday and he confirmed the seriousness of the condition, but also told us that it's encouraging that her lung scans are clear and the biopsy from the tumor margins is also clear. We are at a good place to begin treatment. Looks like radiation therapy will begin in about one week. That involves treatments seven days per week for five weeks. After that we'll have to decide whether we want to pursue chemotherapy.

It was difficult hearing a renowned specialist confirm our fears about recurrence, potential amputation, metastasis, etc. We have to keep focused on the good news though and always keep our eyes on the horizon. Ema showed the doctor a photo of our three children and then looked him in the eyes, "These are the reasons I have to be here." she said. He nodded. I think he understands.

By the way, if you care to see photos of the surgery site on Ema's leg, you can click on the links below.

WARNING! These are not for the squeamish - keep kids under 12, elderly people with pacemakers, and pets with bladder control problems out of the room while viewing!

These were taken one week ago. The staples have since been removed.

Leg photo #1

Leg photo # 2