Thursday, September 1, 2011

One Year Anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary from the time we got the call from Dr. Kaplan to tell us that is was metastatic melanoma. It ranks pretty high up there on the worst days of my life meter, followed two days later by us having to skype the boys separately and tell them.

Meagan had discovered a lump on her upper chest in the Spring, and after sonograms and biopsies, we discovered that it was malignant breast cancer - or so we were told. It was an unusual variety - what they call "triple negative" breast cancer, because it did not have the usual estrogen receptors associated with breast cancer - which also made it a more deadly and hard to beat cancer. We found that out around July 2nd - I remember telling Meagan what a helluva birthday present that was (mine is the 3rd). So July and August were about getting ready for treatment - we expected her to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment (the usual slash, poison, burn protocol which passes for modern day cancer treatment). She was also going to have a port installed to make chemo easier. But then there was this annoying lump on the back of her left shoulder that had been there for three years. After our two week planned vacation in August to visit Edinburgh and then see Casey play in the Ultimate Frisbee World Championships for Under 21 years of age in Germany, we sprung into action - she had the surgery and lump removed and the port installed (a surgical procedure itself). The pathology report and surgery report from the earlier partial mastectomy of the breast lump had been encouraging - no indication of cancer on the lymph nodes - so at least at that time we knew she had malignant cancer, but that it had not spread (metastatic).

We had a visit scheduled with our oncologist, Dr. Kaplan for I think that Monday, which gave the pathology team the whole weekend to diagnose the lump on her back. When we met with him on Monday he did not have the results yet - which was curious to him and us. So we are on pins and needles the next day (he had promised to call us to let us know after he kicked some butt) - the thought that it might be breast cancer which had spread via the blood pathway instead of the lymphatic system was scary. We had some inkling, because when the surgeon held up the removed tissue from her back it sure looked like a tumor. But Meagan was holding up well, and we felt with Dr. Kaplan's care we could beat this thing.

Around 10pm we went to bed - thinking he had just gotten tied up and we'd talk to him in the morning. Bt the phone rang - it was Kaplan - and after he told Meagan, I could hear her tell him, "this is not good news at all is it". A diagnosis of metastatic melanoma was far worse news than a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. At the time, he told her that treatment for metastatic melanoma had improved and it was not the immediate death sentence it was even two years ago, and that there was some reason for hope. I remember after she hung up that we were both in shock - just stunned by the turn of events and the implications.

As it turns out science hasn't advanced that far. The new treatments didn't work for her. Thankfully some of the technology has evolved and the ability of the radiation piece of the treatment puzzle to handle tumors and cancer in areas it had not been able to do so before has been used on her (and continues with the Tomo therapy radiation treatment).

So our journey continues. She's pretty tough and has done better than the odds, given where the disease has presented itself. We aren't celebrating today though. We are just grateful for her continued presence in our lives and for the love and support of the entire community of friends and family who have helped us get so far.

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