Monday, September 2, 2019

Update ... Still Kicking :)

Hi all,

I thought I would drop by ... mainly because some spammer found the site and loaded it up on posts I needed to delete ... but, while I'm here, how about an update?

At the beginning of 2019, I was fortunate enough to get to go to Israel! Oh, what a wonderful 9-day trip that was!!! I made forever memories, that's for sure. I sure do want to go back one of these days. It was incredible!!

Here's hope for you! I went with a friend who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at about the same time as I was. My mom thought it was a trip just for lung cancer survivors, but truthfully, to my knowledge, we were the only two on the trip who had lung cancer in common. What a joy it was for the two of us to thumb our noses at lung cancer and go to the land where our Savior lived, walked, and taught, died, and rose again!

I typically travel a lot doing lung cancer awareness activities but 2019 has not been a year of such adventures. Besides going to Israel, I've mostly just stayed at home this year.

That's been okay because I have gotten very, VERY involved in my church and in Bible studies. There wouldn't be much time to do very much traveling and keep up with my studies, though I do still hope to continue spreading knowledge about lung cancer.

I write blogs for LungCancer.net. I'd love for you to read them. They're mostly along the same lines as these - usually focused on finding joy in living, despite a lung cancer diagnosis. I'm surely happy I didn't believe my first oncologist's prognosis of 4 months and just quit living ... think of all of the wasted time...

I guess the biggest cancer-related news I have is that I am no longer in treatment! This was a somewhat scary move because I've never been fortunate enough to have my tumors go away. They're still in my lungs - stable, but there.

Nevertheless, my doctor and I decided that it was time for me to take a break from immunotherapy after being on it continuously since July or August 2013. I had developed a small rash that was probably a result of the treatment ... and besides, I'd just been on it for a long time. Might as well see if my body has learned anything from years of training it to recognize what lung cancer cells look like!

So far, I've had one scan since quitting treatment. At least as far as we can tell, my body is doing its job and everything remains stable. Yay!

I'm enjoying not going to the doctor so often, though I had already switched to just going once a month. For years, I went every two weeks.

Well, I'll try to come back and post an update here from time to time. There's always HopeandSurvive.com, too. I don't update there very often either, but more often than here. Hope to see you there ... or here ... or on LungCancer.net!

Thanks for stopping by!




Monday, December 25, 2017

Word for the Year




If you had to choose a single word to define 2017, what would it be?

This question was asked on a forum I frequent. I think your response tells a lot about you, your outlook on life, and where you are in your cancer journey.

When last I looked, the following responses had been posted: Horrid, Perseverance, Joy or Hope, Afraid (or a 4-letter word the censors wouldn't allow).


I don't know about you, but for the most part, that list made me really sad.

I have been very fortunate, I know. For the most part, I haven't been too sick during the time I have been battling cancer.  I have been able to carry on my life, very much the same as I did before cancer.

Sure, I get tired easier. And, I carry around a lot more weight than before. And, I have to give up a lot of time going to treatments or scans or doctor visits. I had no doctors when my cancer was miraculously discovered. Now, I have a huge stable of them. And, this no-doctor-going girl is grateful for every one of them.

During 2017, some bad things happened. I had to get out of the clinical trial I had been in for four years. That saddened and scared me. The tumor in my supraclavicle lymph node started growing, in spite of the immunotherapy treatments I had been getting for over four years. There were personal occurrences besides cancer that could make you sad or scared or frightened or even angry.

But, the cancer in my supraclavicle lymph node is no more!!! Fifteen radiation treatments obliterated that baby! For the first time in over five years, that tumor is gone. That's a great feeling.

And, that's not all. A tumor in my lung that had been stable for four years, but wasn't shrinking, shrank by nearly half. That was good and bad news when I read it on the radiologist's report of my latest CT scan. It was great news that it is shrinking. But, I was a bit sad because I had convinced myself that tumor might just be a scar. Scars don't shrink.

I had to get out of the Opdivo trial at my 98th treatment. I had looked forward to the centennial treatment for a long time, ever since it looked like I might actually have a centennial treatment. I never dreamed, at treatment 98, that the likelihood of that 100th treatment was going to be dashed. I was devastated when I learned I was being taking out of the trial at #98.

But, after my radiation treatments, I went back on Opdivo. And, while anticlimatic, I made that 100th treatment!!

And, oh yeah, I crossed that magical 5 year survival mark!! That's a biggie. Most all of the statistics you see measure life by one-year and five-year survival rates. I helped move the bell curve!!!

According to the American Lung Association, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 17.7%. For colon cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 64.4%, breast a whooping and encouraging 89.7%, and for prostate 98.9%.

If you consider only those individuals who have been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer like I have, the five-year survival rate is only four percent. Four percent. Am I lucky, blessed, fortunate ... or what???!!!

Sadly, more than half of all people who are diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. I lost some good friends to lung cancer in 2017. There are a bunch of reasons for that, but one of the biggest can be summed up in one word: STIGMA. People don't give to and the government doesn't fund lung cancer research like they do other cancers.

We will definitely be revisiting this topic in the future!!! It is one that is near and dear to my heart ... and to my survival.

But, back to the topic at hand ... what is your word for 2017??

And, perhaps more importantly, what is your word for 2018?


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Changes for 2018 ... or ... Where Did the Facing Lung Cancer blog Go?



Making a Move!!!


I have decided that I want to have a bit more control over how the content on my blog is displayed so I am migrating my blog, renamed to the more appropriate  "Hope and Survive" to http://www.hopeandsurvive.com



I hope you will follow me there!



(12/25/2017 ... We are having some growing pains ... so if you try to visit the new Hope and Survive site, it may be down temporarily. We're working on it and it should be good as new soon!!

While I am here and can't update the Hope and Survive site, I will just spend a moment saying these snap decisions to make moves sometimes make me think I should get my head examined!!! I seem to think I can just make these changes with no learning curve. WRONG!!! BIG learning curve. BIG!!! Should be interesting to see what we get ... for awhile, it may not seem very different from what we had here at Blogger!!)

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas, Y'all!! 


Rose ... such an appropriate name for my friend!


I want to share The Twelve Days of Christmas with you. My friend Rose, her husband Vic, and I went to see the amazing display at the Dallas Arboretum on Wednesday night. If you have followed my blog much,  you know that the Arboretum is one of my most favorite places to go. I love to go spend time in the gorgeous gardens, no matter the season.

But, it is especially beautiful at Christmas, when you can enjoy the extravagant display of The Twelve Days of Christmas. When I can go with friends, so much the better!!!


Despite the popularity of the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, I have to admit that I can never remember the lyrics. In case you are like me, I will post them here, along with some photos that I took. Truthfully, it is a song I never liked much ... but I love the display at the Arboretum.
Merry Christmas! 

The Christmas extravaganza at the Dallas Arboretum made its debut in 2014. I keep wondering how much longer it will be displayed. Because I never know if this will be the last year it will be seen, I try to see it with new eyes every time I go. I have shown you pictures in blogs from visits I made to the display in past years.

Ho-Ho-Ho
The $1.6 million display took two years to complete. You will see why when you see some of the detail in the of the exhibition.

Santa Claus made his debut this year (or, at least, it is the first time I have seen him). That's what is so fascinating about the Arboretum. No matter how often I go, I always find new things to enjoy.

In addition to the twelve 25-foot Victorian-style gazebos that house the Twelve Days of Christmas displays, there are 500,000 lights illuminating the park and a 30-foot tall tree is found in the center of the property.





On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me ... a Partridge in a Pear Tree.




A Partridge in a Pear Tree


Close-up of the Partridge in a Pear Tree

This display includes the one partridge sitting in a gold pear tree with mirrored leaves and gold branches. Everything in the display is rhinestone-adorned. I wish I had thought to take videos of the displays. That would have made this so much more enjoyable. In this gazebo, the gold tree circles around and around.



On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Two Turtle Doves



Two Turtle Doves



The turtle doves are covered in rhinestones and the outer cage features crystal beading and fleur de lis banding on the top and bottom of the gazebo. Notice the arrow upon which the turtle doves are resting!


On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Three French Hens
 



Three French Hens



The Three French Hens sit on intricate gold straw nests on a revolving base. (This is one of my least favorite of the twelve gazebos, but I like the picture because that is my friend Rose taking pictures of the French Hens!)



On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Four Calling Birds



Four Calling Birds



As you can see, the four birds sit on filigreed, jeweled hanging bird perches within an inner oval cage made of iridescent bead strands. Notice the detail in the feathers of the birds. That is one of the things that is so fascinating about this display at the Arboretum.

The more you look, the more you see! Notice the multi-colored floor and glittered columns.


On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Five Gold Rings



Five Gold Rings

I don't know about you, but when I heard this song, I never envisioned the Five Gold Rings as bedazzled rings spinning on the noses of seals in a Victorian circus! 



On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Six Geese A-Laying



Six Geese A-Laying


Not only are there geese lying at the base of the gorgeous snow-flocked fir trees, visitors can find cardinals, rabbits, and more scattered throughout the rotating display. While not shown in this picture, two geese are sitting on nests, two are standing in their nests so that you can see their golden eggs, and two are nested within the beautiful trees.

When I come upon this display, I begin to "feel Christmasy." Living in Dallas, Texas, it is extremely rare that we have snow ever, much less on December 25th. Nevertheless, a scene like this one says Christmas to me. 


On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Seven Swans A-Swimming




Seven Swans A-Swimming







This is one of my two favorite gazebos. The beautiful, graceful crowned swans give me peace as they float by. You can't see it well in my photos, but a gorgeous tiered fountain graces the center of the pond around which the swans float. I wish my photos did this display justice. Next year, I am going to try to remember to take videos of these displays to share with you.


On the Eighth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Eight Maids A-Milking



Eight Maids A-Milking



Eight Maids A-Milking is a fabulous gazebo featuring an English barn that is divided into four stalls. Each features life-like cows and intricately costumed maids. Four maids are milking while four carry out other duties. Within the stalls, an observant visitor will find cats, mice, and more.



On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Nine Ladies Dancing



Nine Ladies Dancing



We have come to my favorite of the gazebos. The detail found throughout this gazebo absolutely amazes me. I have taken hundreds of pictures over time of this gazebo. I have yet to be truly happy with any of them. I just cannot capture the beauty found in this display. It is incredible.

Each of the nine dancers are outfitted in Victorian gowns with beading and detail that is simply spectacular. Notice the necklaces, bracelets, and even the dance cards carried by each dancer. But, the detail doesn't stop with the dancers. The large Christmas tree in the center of the room is decorated fabulously.


On the Tenth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Ten Lords A-Leaping



Ten Lords A-Leaping

In this gazebo, ten Lords ice-skate around a frozen pond. Each wear Victorian outerwear and ice skates. As found in all of the gazebos, great detail amazes visitors to this display! Notice their scarves and top hats!



On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Eleven Pipers Piping


Eleven Pipers Piping



Pipers are dressed as Scottish bagpipe players. While there is great detail in this gazebo, including a ceiling draped in the same green and red tartan found in the pipers' kilts, I have never been as impressed with this one as with Days Six through Nine.

Rose, also a stage IV lung cancer survivor, and I were beginning to get tired by the time we looked at the eleven gazebos. We walked right by the Twelfth Day of Christmas without noticing or stopping to visit!! However, I have seen it in prior years and will include a picture from those visits so that you get a complete set!


On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... Twelve Drummers Drumming



12 Drummers Drumming (2015)




These pictures were taken in 2015, when once again I visited the gardens with a friend. She and I spent the day and night there, enjoying the displays in daylight and again at night. It was a full, fun day! Going back to find a picture to post for you allowed me to relive those memories. I wish she would come to Dallas again so that we could visit the gardens again! (Kim, are you listening??)


But, the Gazebos Aren't All


The other displays change more frequently than the gazebos do. One year when I visited, we got to see thousands of Nativity scenes. That was very special to me. If I remember correctly, two different collectors shared their collections with the Dallas Arboretum. It was awesome.

This year, we saw the private collections of two different collectors. These individuals collect Nutcrackers. A mansion in the garden was filled with over 800 nutcrackers. I haven't seen The Nutcracker, so I probably didn't appreciate the display as much as someone who has seen and loved the fairy tale ballet.

Nevertheless, I took a few pictures to share with you! (Surprised?!) I thoroughly enjoyed the lavish decorations found throughout the rooms of the DeGolyer mansion.






















I hope this virtual visit to the Arboretum has helped you forget your troubles, pains, and heartbreaks at least for a moment. December, such a joyous time for many, can be a very depressing and dark time for others.

If you like or understand the Twelve Days of Christmas song, please enlighten me! If you enjoyed the pictures, please take a minute to tell me! (As I remember now, though, I think a friend told me they weren't able to post any comments... That would make it difficult to leave comments for me!!)

If you are a cancer survivor like me ... please, to the extent possible, live every single moment of every single day!!! My opinion is that we win against the insidious disease every time we don't let it interfere with our joy. This blog is written in the hopes of giving hope and inspiration to others fighting the battle against cancer.

I have to go for treatments every other week. For over five years, I have been getting some kind of treatment, without break. But, I am still here!! And, doing things like visiting the Dallas Arboretum in hopes of finding that Christmas spirit that sometimes eludes me!


Merry Christmas, Y'all




Thursday, December 21, 2017

FIVE YEARS!!!! Yes!!!! FIVE YEARS!!!!

You guys!!! This girl just passed her FIVE YEAR cancerversary!!! 

When I was diagnosed back in 2012, my first oncologist thought I might live four months. And, yet I recently celebrated FIVE years of life after diagnosis!!!

Donna, December 20, 2017

The year 2017 was an eventful one for me. After four years of immunotherapy treatments with every CT scan showing tumor stability, a tumor in my supraclavicle lymph node (on my neck, near my collarbone) outsmarted the drug and began to grow.

I had to quit my clinical trial after treatment #98. I was so looking forward to getting my centennial treatment. I wonder how many people in the world have received 100 infusions of nivolumab (aka, Opdivo)? I wanted to be among the first.

There were decisions to be made after we got that fateful CT scan back. Initially, I was going to just move into another clinical trial. But, by the time I completed all of the requirements (ie., a biopsy to see how much PDL-1 was present), someone else got the spot I was hoping to fill.

My oncologist suggested that I go on chemotherapy for a time while we waited on something better to come along. I had done chemotherapy. I wasn't anxious to do it again. To say the least.

I pondered on the idea for several days. I cried ... and I rarely cry. I started getting depressed ... and I am rarely depressed. I thought, I prayed, I researched other options, including potential clinical trials available in Dallas or Houston or anywhere within driving range.

And, one day I decided radiation might be a viable option. The tumors in my lungs were still stable. Only the one tumor in my neck was growing. It seemed to me that it would be an easy thing to radiate that bugger. (I wasn't a candidate for radiation when I was first diagnosed because of the location of my tumors in my lungs.)

I spoke to my nurse practitioner about the idea. She said if I really thought that was the route I wanted to go, she would make a referral to a radiation oncologist.

My radiation mask and a wonderful
"lung cancer"
cross my cousin sent me.
My husband and I had an immediate connection with the radiation oncologist. We liked him a lot. And, we completely trusted that he would get the job done on that errant tumor, that I had nicknamed Wayward Tumor.

I had fifteen treatments. I am blogging about those treatments, if I will ever sit down and finish them. They were easy enough. I was a little surprised by the severe fatigue that came around after the treatments were complete. It has taken several months to begin to regain my energy and even so, I tire and stay tired very easily.

Nevertheless, when I had my first CT scans since the discovery of the growing tumor, we got great news! Not only was the tumor in the supraclavicle lymph node gone ... yes, for the first time in five years, that baby was no more!!!! ... the one tumor in my lungs that the radiologist doesn't call a scar shrank by half. That tumor had been completely stable for over 4 years, not shrinking or growing, just being.

I have been okay with those results ... I've often said I was completely willing to carry the tumors around with me as I live my life as long as they just sit there nicely and don't interfere. So, I wasn't prepared to hear that it had shrunk significantly. Wow!!! You gotta love a CT scan like that one!!!

We didn't do anything special to celebrate my five year cancerversary. In a lot of ways, it was just another day. But, in my mind, crossing that magical line in the sand - it seems many stats are done for one year and five year survival rates - was special. Very special.

I am well aware that people can and do get to fight the beast again after crossing the five-year mark. The fact is, I am still in active treatment. I have been in active treatment for the entire five years that I have known I had lung cancer. But, it is still celebration-worthy to cross a milestone that has been looming in front of me all of this time.

Next milestone in sight? 10 years, of course!!!!

Lung cancer is a bitch, y'all. It just is. But, it isn't stronger than we are. If we keep a smile on our face, a song in our heart, and let hope consume us ... we beat it. Every moment we do not dwell on cancer, we beat it. I am resolved to be happy and content every day that is before me. In that way, no matter what happens, I have beat the beast.

Merry Christmas, Y'all.