I guess this is goodbye? Goodbye to the cancer, the menace, that could have taken my life at age 39. Maybe goodbye forever, or just so long until we meet again. I have hit another milestone. Living 5 years post last treatment for my advanced metastatic melanoma. Actually, I passed that date some time ago. My treatment ended on or about Super Bowl Sunday 2012. Just after the day the immunotherapy medication I was taking started irritating my heart to the point that I developed Supra ventricular tachycardia with rapid ventricular response. My heart was beating at 240 bpm, which is the heart's theoretical maximum. This predicament certainly excited all involved. Luckily, running through the list of treatments for SVT with RVR, we found that the last and slowest method worked. To injections of adenosine had no effect, 2 electrocardioversions did not alter my rhythm, good old amiodorone did the trick (slowly). That was how my HDIL-2 treatment ended.
I truly believe that the amount of IL-2 that I was able to take, the sicker I got, the more extra cellular weight I gained, the more I hallucinated, the more my skin became red, irritated and even peeling off, the lower my BP got, the lower my MAP got, had a significant impact on the success of my treatment. I also feel that, the fact that my thyroid gland was damaged as a function of my treatment is indicative of the fact that my body, my immune system was activated and killing cancer cells and got a little overactive and went after my thyroid. From what I have read, this often happens, and tends to happen to those patients that have a complete response to HDIL-2 (like me).
Anyway, I digress. My last imaging and exam at SCCA were in January. At that time we did neck/chest/abdomen/pelvis CT and brain MRI. We met with my oncologist, Dr. Tykodi, who explained that all imaging was unremarkable. At this point, he informed me that patients at this point in their follow up are given a couple of options: 1. to not come back for evaluation unless a concern arises, or 2. Come back to SCCA one time per year for abdominal ultrasound and brain MRI.
We chose to continue our follow up care with SCCA with testing and imaging on an annual schedule.
I am so profoundly thankful for my life today. It's not always perfect. Some moments get pretty close. Some things havn't gone like I had planned. I'm sure I will have more surprises in the future. Some will be more enjoyable than others.
Again. I'm off track. I'm lucky. A real hard, scary, painful portion of my life is over. There were definitely a great many happy and truly fantastic moments shared with my family and friends during those scary times. That's when I felt like the most fortunate person in the world, even though I may have been dying. Grief sometimes makes gratitude grow. It did for me.
Today, my life is great! Filled with normal things; a husband.(that I love dearly), a family (also loved dearly), friends ( loved dearly), I still have the same dog Lola (love, love, love her). I will always remember being so heartbroken to think she would outlive me. However, I do wish she could live to be 50 or so, comfortably of course. She was my silent companion during my bad times. Of course, Kelly was my companion too, but he also had to work to care for me. I have a job. Activities that I enjoy and we love to travel. We try to go somewhere new every year. Something we wanted to do later in life but having cancer made us reevaluate and decide not to wait. Do the things that you want to do when you want to them and are able to do them. If you wait, time may run out.
We live planning for the future but knowing that our focus cannot only be aimed forward. What we do now, today is as important if not more than what we plan to do later in our lives. Tomorrow, next week, next year, is not guaranteed to us. I have to remind myself often, even after my experience, live today like you won't have another. That can mean anything, take a vacation, spend time with your loved ones, go to work and have purpose, spend time by yourself, get outside. Just do something, and keep in mind, we survive to thrive not to merely get by.
I still think of my cancer daily. It will always be a part of me. It has affected me mentally and physically. I don't think it will ever disappear, but it will occupy less and less space in my mind as the years continue to pass without interference from cancer.
I have hope!!