Deanna Thompson's Journal
Five Year Anniversary Today
Written Dec 10, 2013 3:02pm by Deanna Thompson
Five years ago today, at about this hour, Neal and I met our girls at the end of the school day to tell them I had stage IV cancer. After those two conversations, it was off to the hospital to stabilize my two broken vertebrae, and to begin my new life as a person with metastatic breast cancer. A month or so into the diagnosis, when I finally mustered up the courage to do some independent research on my condition, I discovered that the odds were not in my favor: five years out, the Mayo website said, 80% of those who have what I have are dead.
It’s not surprising, then, that I’m a bit stunned to be here for this fifth anniversary of learning I have a cancer that kills most people it attacks pretty quickly. I’m stunned. I’m grateful. And I’m sobered by this reality.
Rather than being comforted knowing that I’m in the minority of folks who get to observe more cancerversaries than most others with the disease, I spend my time hoping and praying that the percentages will soon shift, where one day it will be 80%--or even 100%--who live longer than five years. That maybe even one day there won’t be a need to observe cancerversaries anymore, because cancer will be a thing of the past.
Over the years, many people have told me not to let statistics define me or my outlook. I think that’s good advice; I try to follow it. At the same time, my family and I have no choice but to live in very close proximity to stage IV cancer and its ongoing infringement into our lives.
And living with the cancer continues to be our goal. Last Thursday I had a pet scan to see whether the cancer was active anywhere it already resides (vertebrae, hips, pelvis) or had spread to any new places. Over Thanksgiving I did something to my back; it didn’t feel better immediately, which set us all to worrying. Before my diagnosis five years ago, I lived with back pain for months before doing anything about it. Since learning that an aggressive cancer was the source of that initial back pain, it’s challenging to know what to do when more back pain arises. But we just heard back from the oncologist that the pet scan doesn’t show any new cancer activity (Thanks be to God!), so the back pain is most likely muscular.
Last night, as she set out the things she needed for school today, Annika located her breast cancer pin and attached it to a pink shirt—her way of preparing for the observance of today's anniversary. Her nightly hug and kiss for her mother turned into a tight-gripped, minute-long hug. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered.
I can write my response more easily than I could say it last night: I’m so very glad to be here, too.
In the midst of a frigid Minnesota December, I’m so glad to be here. In the middle of the last week of the semester, I’m so glad to be here. In the week following my 47th birthday, I’m so glad to be here. In the middle of my eldest’s senior year of high school, I’m so glad to be here. In the middle of our 23rd year of marriage, I’m so glad to be here.
On the cusp of a new year, I’m so grateful to be here.
Thank you for all the ways you have contributed to my ability to still be here. Blessed Advent, Christmas, and New Year to all. Much love, Deanna
Continued Low Numbers (which is what we want!)
Written Oct 24, 2013 5:43pm by Deanna Thompson
Greetings Family and Friends on this Brisk Fall Day:
Today was a day for treatment and to get word on my latest tumor marker numbers. July was the last time I was tested and found out my tumor marker number was at 18—the lowest it’s been in the almost five years I’ve been getting tested and far below the magic remission number of 38. What a gift to hear such great news.
Since I’ve been feeling really well overall, we were hoping for more good news today, and we got it: the tumor marker number is now down to 16.35! We were so thrilled to hear such a low number! Thanks be to God. Last year I had to switch daily medications to a post-menopausal aromatase inhibitor (and had to get myovaries out so that the medicine could do its thing), and what we’re seeing is that after an initial period of adjustment, my body is responding tremendously well to the new medication. Yay!
After our time with the oncologist, we moved into the chemoroom. Treatment was largely uneventful—other than the realization half way through that they had forgotten to give me the anti-nausea medication before beginning with the main drug. We stopped and injected the anti-nausea medication, then resumed treatment. I’m hoping the slightly different order of medications won’t alter the effects much.
I am so very thankful to be feeling so well, and continue to be astounded at the support we continue to receive as we walk this path of learning how to live with stage IV cancer. Some of you may have seen last week’s news story about how married people who have cancer tend to live longer than those who live alone. It talked about how living with a spouse often translates into more support, more monitoring of symptoms, more overseeing medications, etc., etc. I thought about this study as Neal sat alongside me at the oncology appointment and in the chemo room. His support makes a huge difference in me being able to live with the disease.
This particular study stressed the importance of living with another person who can support and care for you when you’re dealing with cancer. But the even bigger pointof the study, it seems to me, is about how much support any of us needs when we’re dealing with the really awful things of life. And while that support at home is crucial, to live well in the midst of such an ordeal, we need a boat load of supporters, and my family and I continue to count ourselves so very blessed to be prayed for, thought of, and held in love by all of you.
Thanks for sharing in our joy of this good news. Thanks for continuing to pray for and think about us as we prepare to have more scans in the next month (to make sure everything on the inside matches the low numbers of the tumor markers), and for all the ways you give us strength to face the next test or the next treatment. Support makes all the difference. There are even studies to prove it.
Much love, Deanna
Lowest Tumor Marker Number in Five Years
Written Jul 23, 2013 6:09pm by Deanna ThompsonDear Family and Friends:
Since we had such good news at my last oncology appointment in April, my oncology and treatment appointments have become less frequent--once every three months. I now go in for lab work several days before so we can discuss lab reports during the appointment. And at my appointment this afternoon we heard that the tumor marker numbers (which were over 60 in January, but had dropped below the magic number 37--remission--to 21 in April) are now at 18, their lowest in the five years they've been tracking them! Praise God! Even though I've been feeling great, it's always nerve racking to wait for those numbers, but today, it was well worth the wait. We're thrilled, and thrilled to share the good news.
I then moved to the chemo room for treatment, where our enthusiasm was momentarily deflated by the three pokes it took to find an appropriate vein. But other than feeling a little nauseous and achy for the next day or so, I'm so thankful to be doing so very well.
It's an absolutely perfect summer day in Minnesota. A day I plan to savor as long as I can. Thanks to each of you for your ongoing support--it makes such savoring all the sweeter. May this message find you all savoring summer, too. Much love, Deanna