It’s really difficult to write an update about myself in the middle of a war. It feels self centered or selfish or just wrong. The war raged on. There was a ceasefire. Now, it’s apparent that the ceasefire ended with missiles and rockets being launched in every direction, including a few at my neighborhood last night.
There are few things more despicable than cancer. One of them is terrorism. Living under constant threat of death and destruction and at the complete mercy of God and the Israeli Army and the Iron Dome is very stressful. It’s not completely different from my own personal cancer journey. My friends, in Israel, will understand me when I describe that moment when the air raid siren goes off. Is that the air raid siren?! Everybody freezes in their tracks. Within seconds, adrenalin surges through your veins. You grab your children and you move as quickly as you safely can to that bomb shelter. You don’t think! You just move! Once you’re safely in the bomb shelter, you might have a moment to let out a sigh of relief, a nervous smile to reassure the kids, yourself, the dog. For me, my heart pounding uncontrollably, is the next experience, sometimes accompanied by shaking. The siren ends and then we wait. Sometimes we hear and feel explosions. My body shakes. My heart pounds. After a few minutes, it’s safe to leave the bomb shelter. When will the next air raid siren ring? We just don’t know. That complete randomness, absolute uncertainty… well not so absolute. We kind of have a feeling that there will be more missiles aimed at us but we just don’t know when.
I made it this far. Again.
I’m in remission. The tumors have shrunk or are undetectable. It’s a miracle that the chemotherapy worked quickly and efficiently. I’m very very lucky. I have been at this crossroads before and nobody thought that the cancer would come back so quickly. I’ve reached the boundaries of medical intervention. Just in time for me to enjoy the good news, there were also plenty of snags along the way. A possible brain bleed that ended up being nothing more than an apparent stroke that left a little hole in my brain. A hospital stay, in isolation, when my blood levels completely crashed as a direct result of toxicity from the chemotherapy. A glowing, on the PET CT, in my stomach, that required invasive tests with inconclusive results. An ache here and a pain there that I’m reluctant to pay attention to. Okay, SHH! Enough! I arrived at this crossroads with plenty of reminders that it can and will be pulled out from under me at any moment – without notice. The powers of Oncology can promise me that we have done everything possible to give me the best chance possible. I’m cautious and I’m optimistic. The only option, right now, is to live. Live life like there’s no tomorrow because who knows what will happen next?
New drugs are being developed, PARP inhibitors. Around the time of my original diagnosis, in 2012, advanced studies were just taking off. Now, a phase 3 drug trial with a powerful PARP inhibitor is well underway and I’m a participant. Only time will tell how lucky a participant I am as 2/3 of the women receive the active drug and 1/3 of the participants receive a placebo; sugar pills.
Am I cured? No. There’s no cure. Treatment may cure some women with ovarian cancer that is advanced when it is first diagnosed. For most women with advanced ovarian cancer, or cancer that has come back after treatment, it is not possible to cure it. I’m a positive and optimistic person who needs to live in reality and be prepared for whatever life may bring so I’m very comfortable sharing this information.
We are at war. Nobody knows when the terrorists will strike but we won’t give up! We don’t stop living. The stress and anxiety might make us want to sit in the bomb shelter but that’s not much of a life, is it? The terrorists will never win. Neither will cancer. It’s a done deal. There might not be a cure but there’s always a crossroads and there’s always a choice.
Here I am again, Crossroads, you missed me and I’m back.