I hope you are all doing well, that you didn’t get too fat over the holidays (I gained almost 10 lbs…), and that this New Year has been full of happiness and joy so far. On my end, I would like to start the New Year on this blog with some Good News.
One year ago, I had my first checkup scan post remission. I went to the appointment with my lovely wife very confident, and it didn’t even cross my mind that relapse was a possibility. I beat cancer a few months before, and the survival stats for my type of cancer were very high, so no worry on my end. Then my oncologist entered the exam room with this weird look. He asked how I was doing, and when I said that I was doing great, he looked even more concerned. Then he broke the bad news: “Your scan is worrisome.” Boom! In my face again. I was not prepared for that one. And then we started a new treatment journey that ended last October, when for the third time in my life I heard the word “Remission”.
Today, it was again my first checkup scan post remission (the second one), one year after the first sign of my relapse. So no need to tell you that I was extremely nervous. I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for this type of appointment. So today, my oncologist had a Good News for me: “Your scan looks great.” Amen! Thank you so much. What a relief, you have no idea. I am so grateful. I feel like I am being granted a free pass again for a few more months, until the next checkup. It might sound silly to say that, but that’s true: we don’t know what is going to happen until the next checkup or the next scan, so let’s just take these few months until the next appointment, and enjoy life during that time. And if next time the doc says it is all good again, well, we’ll do the same thing. One step at a time.
Since the end of my last treatment last September, and despite the fact that I had one clean scan and another appointment with my doc who told me I was doing fine, I still had a very hard time to admit that I was doing fine. Mentally, the fear of a relapse has been haunting me every single day. So far, this has been the hardest part of survivorship. As I said in my last post, there is no miracle solution. Instead, there are multiples little steps that you can take, and all together, over time, the situation improves, slowly and gradually. For me, that was right before Christmas. Something clicked in my mind, and after that, I started to feel better. Not back at the top of the top, but better, which is already huge and enough to be grateful for.
In this journey – that is still ongoing and, I think, will never really end – I came to realize the power of the mind, again. I think that physically I have been doing ok over the last few months. But every week, I have been feeling some sorts of aches here and there, that would bother me and get me anxious, until my amazing wife convinced me that it was not the sign that cancer was back. Then, once I was convinced as well that it could just be normal aches and after I did something about it (for instance going get a massage for lower back pain, which is a very common cancer symptom), it disappeared. Then again, the next week, it was something else. And again, I had to be convinced that it was nothing serious. Until last month, when I was able to finally let go a little bit of my anxieties. And guess what, aches went away. So it was no surprise when, last Monday, after I had the scan done, aches came back as my stress level went up while waiting for the results (that my doc gave me this morning). Overall I think I was able to keep the anxieties under control, until yesterday night: rashes broke out on my hands within 30 min. Then on my legs. Some antihistamine pills helped for a good night of sleep and the itchiness, but it came back this morning before the appointment, and as we were waiting in the exam room, I could see the skin on my hands getting worse by the minute. After the good news, guess what happened? My hands got back normal. I am telling you, the power of the mind is amazing.
So today indeed I am very grateful that I can share this Good News with you. I feel even more grateful that I am now able to admit that I am doing better, and to recognize it, even if there is no guarantee that it stays that way, at least today, right now, I am doing fine. For me, this is a huge step. In this journey, I am also extremely grateful to feel so supported at all times by my amazing wife, our family and our friends, through their physical presence, emails or continuous prayers. As my counselor reminded me yesterday night: “Don’t forget: you are not alone in this battle. A lot of people are standing by your side.” So thank you to all of you.
As I did for the last few posts on this blog, I would like to invite you to join me and pray for fellow survivors and friends who are still battling: Sam, Sego and Shericka. May you please keep them in your prayers and ask for full Remission and Healing.
And as a conclusion for this post, I am very honored to share with you below an excerpt of the letter my lovely wife wrote for our New Year cards. She is the best, ever, and I love her more than she knows. And I am so grateful she is mine.
Happy New Year to all of you. Wishing you the best for 2015, especially Health & Love.
See you for the next story.
Adieu 2014, Bienvenue 2015!
2014 will be a year we look back at with a mixed bag of emotions. It has been the best and the worst year. We made it through a cancer relapse, several surgeries, chemotherapy/immunotherapy, radiation, high dose chemo, a stem cell transplant and the most difficult chapter so far—survivorship. It challenged us, it pushed us as far as we’ve ever been pushed, it was exhausting, it demanded strength and stamina. But is also brought us clarity, it proved to us that we have the best family and friends in existence, it taught us to trust outside of our comfort zone and it strengthened our faith. We learned what family is really about and how good it feels to be cradled in their loving arms. We love 2014 because it taught us how strong we are and proved to us that we can overcome anything–and do so like a boss. It has helped prepare us for the rest of our lives, whatever that may entail. So, thank you 2014, our sour patch kid of a year!
To our family and friends who physically came to carry us through high dose chemo and the stem cell transplant, I am forever in your debt. You allowed my children to sail through the whole ordeal seamlessly. They didn’t skip and beat, their lives weren’t interrupted. They came out of it happier and more complete than they went in. This is quite a feat when what we are talking about is cancer treatment. Not a vacation, not social call, but cancer treatment. Thank you for making this possible for my children.
To all the angels who offered us your time, your words, your love and support, your food and your wine, we thank you from the great depths of our souls. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it took a village to get us through 2014!
There are angels among us who reside at Virginia Oncology. We put Ludo’s life in their skilled minds and hands—this is one of the best decisions we made. Between Dr. Dean McGaughey and his arsenal of top-notch nurses, Nila, Cindy and Xuan, Ludo received the very best care possible. We trust them implicitly and thank God for them, their skills and their passion.