Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Letter - 2010

In order to save time, and also in an effort to save trees, I opted not to enclose a letter in my Christmas cards this year. Instead, I referred people to my blog for the Christmas letter. So, what's been going on in my life this year?

First, my parents and my youngest brother moved in with me for financial reasons. It's been very nice to have them around because now they take care of all the food shopping and cooking and they clean the main parts of the house and Dad does the yard work. Scotty is our tech-guy who manages our electronics. Of course, adding three adults, one yippy dog, and a cat to our household has its moments: we've had to learn how to live as a community again. We are still trying to downsize our stuff - to me, it feels cluttered. I admit to owning a lot of this "stuff", too. A lot of stuff can accumulate over 46 years. We're still learning, but for the most part, it's good. Eddie, I think, enjoys having all these people around.

Second, I found out about and participated in a clinical trial at the University of Washington, with the Tumor Vaccine Group. It was a form of immunotherapy; they gave me a vaccine, which caused my body to create t-cells (Herminator-2 cells), which were then extracted, grown in a lab, and returned to me. I made nine trips to Seattle from April to September. I did get donations for these trips (thanks to those who donated) and also hotel stays and gas from the American Cancer Society, or I couldn't have afforded it. But my cancer progressed - satellite lesions around the main tumor in my left armpit - so I started Abraxane in October. I've had amazing results, with the tumor dying in the armpit and presumably everyone else. My tumor marker (the CEA) went from about 50 in September to 3.4 in early December. I'm bald and I have some fatigue and digestive issues, but for the most part, it's doable. Unfortunately, I think I've plateaued and I have satellite lesions still, which I think is due to the fact that my white blood cell count, which was 6.9 (whatever the measure was) in October is down to 2.4 today. According to Dr. D from UW, the Abraxane works by signaling my body that the cancer is there and giving it a chemical signature so that the cancer looks like a foreign object. My body will then send the t-cells in to the cancer cells to kill it. If I have roughly 1/3 of the white blood cells running around, it makes sense that I've plateaued - not as many soldiers around to kill the cancer. I think I've complicated the process by working hard at work and not resting as much so my body can rejuvenate . . . but the next two weeks, I plan to rest rest rest. I'm more or less caught up at work.

Third, Eddie is doing well in school. For his 10th birthday, we had a "Wipe Out Kids Edition" birthday party which he thoroughly enjoyed. Several of his classmates, the neighbor girls, and his cousins joined us for the obstacle course. He's mostly a delight, although trying to get him to do artwork for school projects is like pulling teeth!

I've found air travel to be a little challenging this year - it just tires me out so when I start out tired, I feel more fatigued. I went to Victoria in January for work, Alaska in July for research, and September to Seattle for the clinical trial. We were fortunate to take little trips to southern Oregon in February, Bend in March, Seattle for the clinical trials, Lincoln City in the summer, Bend again in October for just a night, and a couple more short trips to the coast. My family has joined us on several of these trips. The local trips have been enjoyable!

So, in the end, in terms of the cancer, I'm doing much better than I started the year at. My tumor marker is lower than it has been in 18 months. The house is full of people. I still have lots of support. Eddie is doing well. Let's hope 2011 is even better!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. And, a very big thank you to all who have helped us out with donations in the last year and also a big thank you to everyone who send us blessings, positive energy, and prayers! Happy Holidays!

1 comment:

Daria said...

I like your idea of a Christmas letter on the blog instead of in paper form. It gives a nice review for everyone.

Seasons Greetings!