TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 1
As I’ve mentioned before, this blog began in its original version back in 2007 when I was a crunchy parent trying to live a healthy and mindful life with my husband and two children. The blog got sidelined when we were faced with a series of health challenges that started in the summer of 2008. I kept thinking that life would settle down and I could return to my writing at CrunchyParent.com, but amidst the years of chaos we forgot to pay the annual web hosting fee. As a result, the blog content vanished. I had backed up some of my posts, but far from all. Those that I saved are on a computer that has been languishing in storage with the majority of our possessions while we have been living with my parents and house hunting these past nine months. I hope to retrieve and re-post some of what I had written in the past because I think that it provides context, perspective, and maybe even helpful information.
Until I am able to post some of the “greatest hits” from CrunchyParent.com of yesteryear, I wanted to periodically share some of what I had written on a private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org, a free website service for individuals with cancer, back when I was going through my cancer treatment and early recovery. Although it has been almost five years since that time, so much of what I had written feels like yesterday to me. When I attend my Cancer Yoga classes or interact with others going through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery right now I see so much of what I experienced; fear, uncertainty, confusion, loss. I feel a particular connection to parents of young children who are struggling to battle cancer while simultaneously trying to care for the needs of their kids, juggle work and financial demands, and plan for a future that has suddenly become unclear. Cancer survival statistics often only extend out for five years, which can seem especially discouraging when you are in your twenties, thirties, or forties. I know that when I was first diagnosed, I was actively looking for survivors who had lived many years beyond their diagnosis. It gave me hope and a brighter vision for my future.
As I begin to approach that five year survival mark, I want to acknowledge how I felt when I was there, and also say that I am (very gratefully) still here, and plan to be here for a long time. If you have found your way to CrunchyParent.com because you or someone who you love is battling cancer right now, I hope that you find a connection and know that you are not alone. No one fights alone.
This post was initially written in January, 2011 about a month after I had received my diagnosis.
As many of you know, I spent much of last year on bed rest growing Asher into a strong and healthy baby. For the majority of those 166 days, I was in bed lounging on my left side and counting the milestones in his development. My most exciting activities were short walks to the bathroom and visits to see my various doctors. Somewhere in that time I began to notice that the front of my left thigh seemed to be raised relative to my right thigh. I speculated that maybe it was unequal muscle development since I was supporting all of my weight with my left side while my right side atrophied. I was also concerned that perhaps it was a blood clot from excessive horizontal time. I showed the raised area to several of my doctors but they did not seem impressed, so I dismissed it as another pregnancy-related oddity.
With Asher’s birth came great joy and an intense desire to make up for time lost stuck in the house. The kids kept me busy and I was also going to physical therapy 1-2 times/week to recover some of the strength and mobility lost to the pregnancy complications. I thought that maybe PT would resolve the “leg lump” as I came to call it, but the months wore on and there was still no improvement. In fact it seemed that the lump was getting in my way even more, and limiting my range of motion. I asked my PTs to weigh in with thoughts and they speculated that it was an unresolved hematoma and referred me to my primary care doc. This move earned me an MRI which revealed a large mass in my thigh muscle. I was told to see a doctor who, “is familiar with tumors” and sat waiting for the first available appointment with an orthopedic oncologist.
Once the first available appointment rolled around, things began to move rather quickly. I met with the doctor on Monday, Dec. 20th, had a biopsy on Tuesday the 21st, and received my official diagnosis on Wednesday, December 22nd. To my great surprise, I was diagnosed with a low grade myxoid liposarcoma; a rare cancer of the soft tissues. Thursday, December 23rd was a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere, and then we waited and waited and waited for results (note: try to avoid being diagnosed with cancer just prior to major holidays). Fortunately, the cancer did not appear to have spread and I was given a stage 1B (“B” for, “Boy, that’s a mighty big tumor you have there.”).
Since my diagnosis I have met with two radiation oncologists and also received a second surgical opinion from an orthopedic oncologist. Our good friend at a respected cancer institute has also been weighing in with his sage advice and bending the ears of the sarcoma specialists out there. It has been recommended by all that I undergo a 5-week course (25 rounds) of radiation to help define the margins around the tumor and then have surgery to remove the tumor after a 3-4 week rest period (to allow residual swelling to subside). I am told that following this course of treatment should result in an 80-90% chance that I will not have the cancer reappear within a 5-year time period. I personally am interested in the statistics for a 50 year time period but I have yet to find them, so I guess we’ll just aim for five years at a time.
I began radiation on January 13th. So far things are rolling along fairly smoothly as we adjust and try to manage the logistical odds and ends. I have been touched by all of the support that we have received from family and friends far and wide. With all of the changes that have been going on I am finding it increasingly challenging to return emails and phone calls in a timely fashion so I am hoping that I can post updates here to help keep people accurately informed and streamline my “workload.” Please know that I receive, read, and appreciate all of your messages and forgive me if I do not get to reply to each and every one.
***As a final note, although the girls know that I am getting “special” medicine and will need to have surgery on the bump in my leg, we have not used the word cancer with them. Cancer is hard enough for adults to manage emotionally and we’d prefer to save the girls from the stress of worrying unnecessarily about my health and future right now, since we have every reason to be optimistic about a cure. We would appreciate if you would please be sensitive around their little ears.***
-Corrie (and Rich and the rest)