It’s working! The IL-2 is working! My original tumors have shrunk by 45 percent and there is no evidence of any other cancer anywhere! We went to NIH today to have scans (two CT scans of the chest and abdomen, and two MRIs of the abdomen and brain). About 30 minutes after we got home, Dr. Schaub called my cell phone. We weren’t expecting to find out the results until tomorrow, but Dr. Schaub called me personally to tell us the good news. It was such a wonderful surprise. We expected to spend tonight full of anxiety over what we would learn at our appointment tomorrow. And instead it’s a fabulously joyful night filled with hope and thanks. I go back to NIH tomorrow for our appointment with the doctors and to be admitted. I begin treatment on Wednesday morning (first dose of IL-2 at 7:00am). It’s fantastic that we are starting the next round right away. But we thought we’d be starting at the end of the week at the earliest so tonight is a bit of a whirlwind of packing and getting everything ready for me to be gone for a week. Thankfully my mom is already here and everything is in place for a smooth transition to treatment. I am so overwhelmingly thankful for this news. As much as I knew the IL-2 would work, there was statistically only a 15 percent chance it would, and while my heart remained positive my brain maintained a spec of realism. And now this extraordinary news not only gives me a sense of relief that is like the weight of 1,000 troubled lives flying free out of my soul, it also reinforces hope. I had hope throughout this fight and we won. I know that science played the lead role and the dedication of my doctors and nurses and NCI were what gave us the advantage. But I also know that I will carry this hope with me throughout the rest of my life and I will take it out and use it whenever I face a challenge. And when I do face future challenges, I will give hope a big hug and I will thank it for being there, and I will know that it played a big role in getting me to that future in the first place. And I’m not just talking about my own hope. I’m talking about the amazing hope and support of all of our fabulous friends and loved ones. I’m talking about every single one of our neighbors for the signs in their yards that literally screamed hope at me every time I went outside; I’m talking about the amazing support of our MMG family who spoke to me about when I would come back to work in almost every conversation never once even contemplating the idea that I might not come back; I’m talking about our fabulous family who remained positive at all times (at least to me, even though I’m sure there was some fear behind the scenes); I’m talking about our wonderful friends who have texted, e-mailed, called, and visited non-stop over the past few months; I’m talking about everyone who reads this blog in support and all of the uplifting, inspiring comments I continue to receive; and I’m talking about my fabulous care team at NCI who made curing me a priority and who see the value in my life for me, for Jeff, and for Kai. It was all of these hopes put together that has lead to this absolutely amazing news. I know this isn’t quite the end of my journey. I still have to do another course of IL-2 just like I did before. And IL-2 only has a 5 percent cure rate. I know there will be some part of me that lives in constant fear of the cancer spreading. But for now, this is the best news I could have hoped for. This is the news I have been crossing all of my fingers and toes to hear. This is the best result possible. And for that, I cannot even begin to express my thankfulness. I am thankful with every inch of my mind and body. I am thankful with my life.
Tomorrow we got back to NIH for a 1:00 appointment and then I’ll be admitted. I will probably be in the hospital about a week again, just like last time, but it depends on how many doses I tolerate and how long it takes me to recover (I will then be home for about a week and then back in again for a second round). Fingers crossed that a) I don’t end up in the ICU again, and b) I am lucky enough to have a private room again. I can’t wait to share my joy with the nurses. I have a feeling that they will almost as genuinely happy as we are. I will continue these postings through this next course of IL-2 and beyond. While this is fabulous news, the best news will come in the near future when we find out that the tumors are gone. And we will find out the tumors are gone, of that I am sure.
In other news, Kai started solids this week! He had butternut squash today and yesterday, and ate it all both times. He’s getting so big (literally, he’s a little chunker now and I couldn’t be happier about that). Even though I know that this treatment is curing me, and I will embrace it like a long-lost best friend this time around, I am still sad to be away from my baby and just thinking about leaving him again tomorrow creates a lump in my throat that is difficult to swallow. But this time I know that I am trading 2 weeks away from him for a lifetime with him. And for that, I am so very thankful. Also, Jeff and I got to go away for his birthday celebration weekend this past weekend. It was so much fun! It was so fantastic to get that dedicated block of time just to hang out with my husband and have nothing but pure fun together. I love you, Jeff, with a love that grows every single day and will continue to do so forever.
Today I am thankful that the treatment is working. I embrace its physical pain in the knowledge that it is working for me and is my friend rather than my enemy. I go back in this time not with a fighter’s spirit as much as with a spirit of love and gratitude. If the IL-2 needs for me to be sick, then I will be so with a huge smile, because another month or two of feeling bad does not even begin to compare with the lifetime I will get in return. I am also thankful for the wonderful weekend with my husband; my fabulous doctors and nurses and NCI; all of the amazing support of our neighbors, MMG family, and friends; our fabulous family on whom we will need to lean again this month; and, as always, my extraordinarily wonderful husband (I’m sorry you have to go through this again sweet Jeff, but hopefully it will be the last time), and my perfect baby Kai. I will not leave you, my sweet baby. I will get to see you grow up. That’s what all of this is for and it is coming true.