Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Dear ones, the scan news is good. My cancer is in serious Rip Van Winkle mode, snoring away, deep in the genes. And so, we continue, me and my cancer, with the tag team of chemo+radiation+lorlatinib  knocking it out (for now) and lorlatinib keeping it down (for now), and me dancing around the ring in my boxer shorts, all sweaty with fists lifted high above my head, and crowing, "Don't come back unless you want another beat down, bitch." 

If only it were that easy. 

Faith and science. And gratitude. That's what I've got. And time. MORE TIME! Can anything be lovelier or more of a gift?
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Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

So far, despite the crumminess of the pandemic situation, the crumminess of the political situation created in part by the pandemic situation, and amidst protests, long-needed social upheaval and change, and the icky-hot weather settling into the Cumberland River Basin here in Nashville, it's been a nice summer, relatively free of cancer-related stuff.

I did a crazy thing and drove from Nashville to the Hudson Valley in New York in June to spend a few weeks with family there. During a pandemic. With stage iv (and hopefully still inactive) cancer. Yup.

John stayed back in Nashville to look after things here, so I was on my own. It's a long drive, which I used to be able to make in one day, but I can't really, anymore, as it is now much too fatiguing. So I stopped in a campground on the way up and another on the way down, instead of opting for potential COVID-19 exposure that I thought would be more likely in a hotel than in the great outdoors sleeping under the stars in a tent. On the ground. It's been awhile since I've done any tenting, and even though my tent only has three poles, and is basically idiot-proof in design, there was, of course, some slapstick involved in putting the tent up, antics that would have made Charlie Chaplin proud. Let's just say the first time especially it took a long time and a lot of cussing to get the thing up as darkness came down a little too quickly. So that was an amusing adventure. 

New York was all long walks along the Hudson River and bike rides on cool, shaded rail trails, and climbing hills and viewing the views from our family's old home place in the Delaware County Catskills. To the friends I missed seeing, my apologies...we were keeping the quarantine circle somewhat tight once I settled in. Even without the customary socializing all about, it was a good visit. I wrote some, edited some, read a bunch, painted a few pictures, stayed off of social media, and tried to be helpful when I could be with the many projects at hand. But mostly, I just hung out with my people and vibed their good vibes. And that is the best medicine a body could ever have. I meant to write a bunch of letters and post cards, but never did...I blame it on the nice weather and good company. So to folks I owe actual letters...I promise some soon.

Now I'm back home in Nashville. And it's too hot to go outside much during the day. The heat bothers me way more than it used to, which might be age or treatment-related or a little of both. We've managed a few greenway bike rides, some evening walks. I'm avoiding some work I let slide while I was in New York, and using reading as an excuse not to write much lately.

I'm also fretting some. Because it's uncomfortable keeping all my fingers and toes crossed all the time. Because I've got full-on scans next week. Head to pelvis. Brain MRI. Torso shots. I'll be posing pretty inside the rackety rock'n'roll high tech peeping tom machines. Hope hope hope the cancer is still asleep. Deep deep sleep. Double-deep Rip Van Winkle sleep.

I'm grateful, as always, for these good days, and for your good wishes and prayers. As I hope for good news, or at least not terrible news, healthwise, I try to be mindful of all the blessings brought into my life every day, by all of my dear ones, by complete strangers (thank you hardworking delivery folks!), by science, and by that powerful force for universal good, and all that grace.

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Unremarkable, is the word the docs used in describing my most recent scans. The latest images show no evidence of disease from the neck down, so hurray for that! We'll do a full set of scans that includes my brain in late July, which I hope will be equally unremarkable. This set was torso only; brain scan protocol is a longer interval as long as there is no active cancer in my body and I'm not having any symptoms that would indicate problems in the brain. So, we move forward into another eight-week reprieve, grateful, as always for more time, more "healthy" time with all you dear people. My oncologist says that to look at me and to look at my basic labs, no one would ever know that I'm walking around with Stage IV cancer. Let's hope Lorbrena keeps it that way! I am blessed to wake up each day, put my two feet on the ground and breathe this pollen-laden, humid, Tennessee late-spring air. 

Quarantines are lifting, and while most advice is still against someone like me (a somewhat immunocompromised person) being "social," we have seen a few friends in the neighborhood and hope to see a few more, and some family in the coming weeks, but only at home, and usually in the backyard or on the front porch as outdoor socializing is deemed "safer" than indoor. We're still avoiding restaurants (except for takeout or delivery) and stores (except for our little local health food store and the occasional dash into Kroger), but as things open up, it will get trickier to navigate the world, even if we are committed to social distancing. John and I wear masks when we go out in public, but not everyone does, and not everyone respects social-distancing or even pretends to care that our pandemic numbers have reached over 100,000.

When I lived in Japan in the early 1990s, it was common to see people wearing masks during cold and flu season, especially on the trains and in crowded public spots. It was just considered basic good manners. So, ya know, mask up, people. It's not hard, and it helps stop the spread of coronavirus.

For the time being, I'm working at home on a few writing, editing, and writing-coach projects. We're hiking and biking a bunch, and trying to do yoga every day.

My life's pretty boring right now, and I'm glad. And grateful.

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Hi friends,

Here’s a very quick’s still, thankfully, a very nice spring here in Nashville, pretty rainy with mostly mild warming temperatures. The relatively cool weather has meant getting to spend lots of time outdoors—walking, hiking, and most recently, biking. Before cancer, I was a committed cyclist for a few years; I even joined a couple of cycling groups and did a few long rides to fundraise for the scholarship program at the wonderful community college where I taught before I got sick. I got back on my bike for the first time since October 2017, before diagnosis. Because my level of fitness and my cooridination had detoriated so much during treatment, it took me a long time to get to where I finally I felt confident enough to try to balance and pedal at the same time. We rode on a flat greenway, so I had plenty of wind, and I didn’t crash. Off to a good start. I hope this week to try a few hills to see if I can recover my climbing lungs and legs in order to take on some of the longer rides available in the quite wavy Middle Tennessee landscape. I want to enjoy it before the oppressive summer heat makes it impossible to do much outdoors.

I’ll have a CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis on May 22, the Friday before Memorial weekend, which will mean I won’t get results until the 26th, after Memorial weekend, which is fine, because John and I will celebrate our wedding anniversary on the 25th, so that will be a nice distraction. If the weather is good, we’ll probably go for a long hike or bike ride and have a picnic.

If all is good with my CT scan, I’ll just stay on my current treatment, oral lorlatinib (Lorbrena). The side-effects are bearable, as long as no one asks me to do math in my head. Or math period. Or anything that involves mental quickness or memory. Or intense fine motor skills. Also, please be kind about my extraordinary girth. I promise I exercise like a fiend and eat right; I just don’t seem to have much of a metabolism any more, another adverse effect of Lorbrena. That’s been a little discouraging, given my fairly active lifestyle, but as I always say, if I have to be overweight or have active cancer, I’ll take the pounds, gladly.

So, here’s hoping for a very boring CT scan. All prayers and good vibes in my general direction are much appreciated.

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Well lovelies, it’s full-on spring in all her decadence here in Tennessee. The yard is looking swell— azaleas are blooming, the wisteria is fairly dripping with purple clusters, and the tulips have survived a couple of stormy beat-downs and are still kicking up bright flowers. We go for socially-distant walks around the neighborhood and sometimes hike in a little patch of a forested park on the outskirts of town, and in sum, we have been enjoying the greening and flowering of Nashville—dogwoods are blooming now too, and irises, both domestic and wild. So that’s the garden report.

I had a tele-visit with my oncologist, Dr. Melissa Johnson, about a week after scans, mostly just to check in, to make sure I wasn’t having any medication issues or COVID-19 symptoms. We decided to schedule CT scans for late May; since the March ones were so good, we’re hoping the new set will be too, and that I’ll be able to go for longer periods between scans. The only concerning thing right now is that we don’t have recent bloodwork. The last blood draw was in early February with my GP; and while most things were normal, there was still some anemia, elevated cholesterol, hypothyroidism, and a vitamin D deficiency. We’re addressing those things with medication, supplements, and diet.

Mostly, I’ve been heartbroken about not being able to travel. I really wanted to get in some good visits with far-flung friends and family while I am in relatively good health. But as COVID-19 continues to rage around the country, it probably won’t be safe for me (and lots of other folks) to travel for many months to come, unless treatments improve or a vaccine becomes available. I can only hope that my disease stability continues well beyond this pandemic so that I will be able to see all my dear ones up close and personal-like, and to hug each of you for a good long time.

In the meantime, I can only offer thanks to the healthcare workers, first responders, grocery and delivery folks, “essential” businesses (all y’all are essential), and the others who are continuing to figure things out and keep us all going. Here in Nashville we’re still dealing with tornado recovery, and trying to support our local businesses, our artists, and our entire community; it’s been a double whammy—tornado then pandemic, but don’t count us out. 

Here’s to hoping and making plans to seeing you all on the other side of this mess!

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Some big happenings in the past week, eh? But the best of them for me was having my scans come back showing No Evidence of Disease (NED) for the 3rd time in a row. As I have said before, I know I'm not cured, that the evil disease is just looking for a way to mutate around my daily oral chemo, that eventually, I'll probably face disease progression, but right at this moment I feel quite well.  Many of us on targeted therapy with late stage disease just live this way from scan to scan... some of us call it "other shoe" disease in we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And even so, I am beyond grateful that I get a little bit more...time.

Also, I had a birthday this past week and turned 57. That alone is a miracle, truly. I celebrated with my sweet Nashville family alongside the weeping cherry tree we planted for my birthday in 2018, when I was half-way convinced I wouldn't be around to see it in 2019. Now it's 2020; the tree is seeing its third spring bloom, and I am ready for lots more of this wonderful life – ready to do more advocacy for lung cancer patients, ready to help East Nashville rebuild from the tornado earlier this month, ready to get going on sooooo many projects, and to travel and visit all the cool people I know. 

Guess not right now. Not for the travel part anyway. And Tennessee is closed y'all, so if you were even thinking about visiting me, stay home.

Coronavirus. Ugh. I'm only going to say a few things here from the perspective of a cancer patient and on behalf of other cancer patients. You've all been reading the horror stories from Italy. About how they triage. About how people who are already sick (i.e. cancer patients) and the elderly don't exactly get first crack at the skimpy supply of respirators. Let's hope our circumstances here don't grow as dire. However, it looks like we're in for a real bad patch. If things get really, really awful, I and my fellow cancer patients and older folks will be low on the list for access to treatment for respiratory failure, whether COVID-induced or otherwise. And it's weird to know that, to walk around in the world with the frank realization that we're among the unchosen ones, the ones to give up on first when resources are especially limited and desperately needed to support those whose chances appear to be "better". I don't mean that to sound as dramatic as it probably does, but...don't count me out yet, docs, just because I have a late stage don't know what kind of fighter I am.
We're doing the best we can to protect ourselves, limiting trips outside the house (mandatory now under new hunker-down regulations in Nashville), fanatically washing our hands, not touching our faces, doing the social distance thing, doing what we can to boost our weakened immune systems.  But please, healthy folk, keep us, the unchosen in mind and take good care of your own health. If you know you've had exposure, or if you have symptoms, get tested, and if you can't get tested, self-quarantine for 14 days. And though I think it's a stupid term...yes, practice social distancing.

Our hope is that we won't get the illness at all, of course. Or if we do, that we develop only those mildly annoying cold-like symptoms, and that we won't infect anyone else. But if things get much worse than that...well, let's hope we never get there.

In the meantime, I hope everyone will keep well, that pantries and refrigerators are well stocked, that your tp hoard holds you over, and that you'll leave some food and tp on the shelves for others who may be less speedy and able.

Peace in the time of coronavirus, y'all. 

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

It’s officially the Ides of March, one day after Pi Day, and two after Friday the 13th. Luckily, we made it home to Nashville last week from our most recent trip (Hawaii) without delay or mishap in the midst of the cornavirus crisis. Though I had hoped to do a little more traveling this month to visit dear ones in Seattle and New York, the current coronavirus situation has postponed those trips for now. Sigh. 

While we were away, there was a terrible tornado in Nashville. We are very, very, very fortunate in that our house and loved ones are all safe and were not directly affected. However, our city did lose a number of important businesses in two of our strongest artistic communities, North Nashville and my beloved neighborhood East Nashville. Lots of small, locally-owned businesses operate in these areas, catering to a thriving creative community. Quite a few people lost their homes, and over twenty people here and in outlying communities died. 

And then...coronovirus...You can imagine that in a city in which the economy is so driven by the entertainment and sports industries, and megachurches, a place where people LOVE to get together and party (and/or pray), shifting gears to social distancing is difficult and requires more economic sacrifice. We’ll see how Nashville weathers this storm. For now, I’m bungalow-bound, enjoying some solitude, reading, writing, movie-binging, going for unsocial and long walks when the weather allows.

Despite the fact that I have been feeling very well and have been quite active the past few months, I am, likely, somewhat immunocompromised – one of those people they talk about who is more likely to get gravely ill and even die from COVID-19. It’s no fun to hear one’s ownself talked about in those terms. Having late stage lung cancer puts me square in the category of super-vulnerable. I was still slightly anemic from chemo as of last month, which can also indicate that my immune system isn’t firing on all cylinders. Also, it’s allergy season here in Tennessee, with all our beautiful ornamental trees starting to bloom. My nose runs constantly, and my eyes are red, and though these are not primary indicators of COVID-19, everyone thinks they are, and that I’m a vector. Thankfully, I don’t seem to have been exposed, and I’d like to keep it that way, so it’s best to stay home, and I really don’t mind.

I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been calling my “window of wellness,” galavanting around Colombia and Hawaii, and I hope that window remains open to me when I go for scans later this week. This time we’ll have both a CT below the neck and an MRI above. I don’t get as anxious about scans as I used to, since I know now that progression is inevitable (though not necessarily with every scan, thank goodness), and that it’s more a question of where, when, and what we are going to do about it. Of course I hope my scans are clear again this time (that would make three times in a row!), and I’ve been symptom-free so far, so there is reason for optimism. I hope for good stability so that I can continue to put my energy into lung cancer patient advocacy, to help with tornado recovery, and to keep writing and maybe even return to a little bit of teaching. And, above all, I want to hang out with all you people, of course!

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

John and I were fortunate enough to have spent the past ten days in Colombia. As in South America. As in that geographically diverse equatorial country snugged right up there on the west coast between Venezuela and Ecuador, the continent's hearty shoulder. Travel like that is something a person with late stage cancer gets to do during a sustained period of remission if one's savings have not yet been entirely depleted by the disease and if one is fortunate enough to have a little money put back for that sort of thing AND health insurance AND co-pays AND all the other day-to-day stuff that comes with kicking around the planet as a sometimes really sick person. So yes, I am one of those incredibly fortunate people.

Here's the thing; the whole time we were in Colombia, I didn't think of myself as a sick person. In fact, I felt absolutely and completely well for the first time since diagnosis in November of 2017. Somehow, even the yukky side-effects of the heavy dose of lorlatinib I have been taking seemed minimized. There were still some cognitive issues, of course; I had to rely a lot on John to navigate us around Bogota and Cartagena (my internal compass and map reading skills have gone completely wonky on this drug, something to do with the hippocampus I guess). But spoken language was okay, and I managed to summon up just enough Spanish to get us directions, chat with taxi drivers, order food, and make a little small talk here and there. I felt, dare I say, almost normal.

And thanks to the appetite-inducing powers of lorlatinib (remember all that weight gain?) I ate all the arepas and empanadas and drank all the jugo naturál. I also ate all the arroz coco, all the mojarra and all the rosada pesces, all the ajiaco (chicken soup/stew), all the carne parilla, and had a nice plate of mussels at the beach on Tierra Bomba. Oh, and I sampled the delicious paletas (popsicles) too.

So, yes, we traveled; it was brilliant and fun. There was lots of wonderful eating and lots and lots of walking and seeing and doing and wondering about the lovely places and the lowly ones, as one does when one travels.

So I don't mean to bore everyone with a travelogue here as much as I mean to say, I know time is short; time is short for all of us, no matter how long we live. I am deeply grateful to have spent some of what I have left doing something I have always loved – foolishly seeing a bit of the world. 

In November of 2017, I didn't believe I would travel anywhere again except across town to the doctor's office, and quite soon to the boneyard. But, of course, I've been fortunate to have access to excellent care and breakthrough cancer treatments made possible by ordinary people who donate money for research, by patients who volunteer for those very scary Phase I trials, by brilliant researchers who are as relentless in trying to stop this disease as the disease is relentless in trying to kill us, by institutions dedicated to the cause of caring for people with cancer, and by grace. Yes, grace. None of my good fortune is deserved, as I have mostly been a pretty poor excuse for a human being, but I have it anyway. 

No illusions here. I know I won't always feel this well because I know enough about this disease to know the deadly game it plays.

While I was traveling, I was in touch with an old friend from my yoga teacher training days. She had been just that week diagnosed with what the docs think started as ovarian cancer and is now metastatic, turning up in her lungs and elsewhere. As with lung cancer, people with ovarian cancer rarely develop symptoms until the disease has become metastatic, and even then, for otherwise healthy people – people who don't smoke, who have healthy life-style practices – doctors tend not to jump to a cancer diagnosis. Now my friend, an otherwise perfectly healthy and fit person, a yogi, an artist, a mom and wife, is having to face down this relentless disease in a late stage and still find a way forward. It's not fair. "None of this is fair," I thought, as I shared my story with her, talked about treatment options and how much better they are now, trying my best to comfort my friend on the other side of the satellite bounce. My friend who was still waiting to get a proper biopsy for genetic testing, who was at the beginning of that terrible journey through all it takes to get to the very first treatment, and, like all of us who develop cancer, will have to figure out how to live with this diagnosis rather than just making a plan to die from it.

Cancer is 99% shitty suffering (that includes suffering from the effects of the cancer itself, from treatment, and from anxiety, impacts on loved ones, economic hardship, loss and grief) and 1% grace.

But that 1% grace, like the song says, is amazing. And right now, even though I'm really pissed that someone else I care about has cancer too, I'm trying to stay mindful of that 1% of grace and reflect on it with 100% gratitude. Some days, like the sunny ones in Cartagena, it's easy. Other days, the bad news days, not so much.

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

Here's a funny thing I've learned about being a metastatic cancer patient. Sometimes, we let our teeth go. I've been in conversation with several metastatic cancer patients for whom dental care has become an issue, and I confess to having some of the same concerns, i.e. about infection, more pain, and well, cost. Because when you're metastatic, you think: if I'm gonna die from cancer in a few weeks or months or even a year from now, do I really want to invest money in my teeth? Couldn't  I just go ahead and spend it on something like a nice trip or several nice trips instead, or at least just pay the mortgage and take my sweetie out to dinner?

Honestly, these are things I think about. The good news is, I'm fortunate enough to get to do all of it, tending teeth AND world travel (well, a few long-delayed trips to vacay spots and visits to dear ones). And that's because my oncologist has just confirmed my continuing NED status a whole two months out from infusion chemo and radiation. Even though chaos is my typical MO, I'm grateful for this sort of disease stability. So far Lorlatinib is holding the cancer in check after an Alimta-Carboplatin chemo doublet and radiation therapy chased it back to the hinterlands of my molecular being, where we hope it stays, mutating into something harmless.

So, after some dental work, in the coming weeks John and I will be making our way to a few (for us) out of the way places, and I'll also get to visit some far-flung friends and family.

I'll have scans again in March, and we'll maintain "heavy surveillance," with MRI and CT scan sentinels and docs ready to pounce with a new therapy at the first sign of progression. 

Thanks for hanging in there with me on this journey. I am ever grateful for all the prayers, good wishes, and funny animal memes you care to send.

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

A few days before John and I left Nashville to spend Christmas in New York with my mom, my youngest sister Michele and her small tribe, I got good news. My scans looked really great. As in clean. As in disease progression is halted. No more spots on the brain. No more spots on the lymph nodes.

I know, I know. I didn't write a post about this great news right away, though some dear ones did post the news on FB after I told them via text, and that made me smile! I have been a slower crower because I have had some difficult emotional things to process this past month, and a celebratory high-five to the universe felt a little weird, so apologies for this tardy announcement.

Earlier in December, I lost an old, good friend to ovarian cancer. I've written a little about Ann here. Secondly, at the time I was receiving my scan news from my ecstatic rad onc (I knew the news was good when she walked into the room all smiles!), another close friend was approaching her final days in hospice with late stage breast cancer. Patricia, a beautiful poet, actress, artist, mentor, and shamanic presence in the world, left us for good on Christmas day. And, back in November Marisa, a young woman who was a member of our online ROS1+ lung cancer community, died after battling the disease for four years. Though I'd never met her, we'd chatted on Facebook and I followed her blog. She lived just a few hours drive from me, and we had hoped to meet in person sometime, but never could. Even though I didn't know her well, the loss of her voice in our community, a woman in her early 30s, was tough.

So, in the face of the sad news, I haven't felt a whole lot like celebrating my own good fortune, though I am profoundly, unimaginably grateful for this new period (oh may it be LONG!) of disease remission. It was the best Christmas present I could have gotten, one of those Christmas miracles we sentimental Americans are so inclined to claiming. Miracle or not, the timing was perfect. I didn't have to do any more chemo (yay!), so I was able to have a good visit with some of my family and friends, enjoy the scenic Hudson Valley again (which has my heart forever), and eat and drink pretty much whatever I wanted with gusto. (I'll pay for those sins at the gym this week.)

Now I'm going to work on sorting out the mental-emotional-physical machinery it will take to make the most of this remission, however long it lasts. That involves cranking up the optimism and tamping back the fear of recurrence, not an easy task for one as prone to melancholy and defeatism as I. Hmmm, let's start with some gratitude practice for this moment right here in the middle of the electric pulses dancing across the screen, never exactly sure where they are headed, only that the universe says "YES!"

Journal entry by Leslie LaChance

So, apparently, this is a place to write about illness and, with luck and a bit-o-science, recovery.  I don't know how to write about either of those things, because what illnesses I have suffered have been small, and recovery has come easily and with certainty.  My own illnesses and recoveries have never seemed worthy of the attention writing compels. There have never been any questions about them.  But as of Thursday, November 9, 2017, there are lots of questions about both. Questions lead to contemplation, and for me, contemplation sometimes realizes itself in writing. 

I've had respiratory problems my entire life; bronchitis, sinus problems, allergies. My mom says that when I was a kid, people would joke that if the wind blew the wrong way, I'd get sick. Sure, I probably had a puny immune system.  But that was also in the days when lots and lots of people smoked, and they smoked everywhere -- in cars, on the bus, in restaurants, in grocery stores, at work, even in hospitals.  I even had a college professor who chain-smoked through his lectures on Romantic poetry. That was also in the days before the EPA and air quality controls were in full effect.  So, I think for lots of us who were young then, the fact that our respiratory systems survived at all is a bit of a wonder. How did we not all die?

In my 20s, I was diagnosed with asthma and have relied on rescue inhalers and corticosteroid inhalers ever since.  This summer, I was having a particularly wheezy time of it, so the nurse practitioner at my local clinic had me try out some new sample medication.  It seemed to help.  And my symptoms abated. And I stopped with the new inhaler after awhile. But.

This fall, I noticed the wheezing had come back and wasn't really going away, and it was especially bad at night. I also noticed that I was getting short of breath when I climbed the six flights of stairs to my 3rd floor office at work. I went back to the clinic, saw the doctor, and asked her to write an actual prescription for the medication I'd gotten over the summer.  She said if I didn't feel better in a month to come back and get a referral to a pulmonologist. I also got a flu shot.

The next day, I went to see my regular bodywork/massage/physical therapist.  As she was doing her visual evaluation of me, she spotted a puffy lump just above my clavicle on my left side.  That was new.  It hadn't been there a month prior when I'd seen her last. What was it, we wondered?  Perhaps a reaction to the flu shot? Perhaps something worse? I waited a week to see if the lump would go away, but it didn't.  The rest...well...that's why I've opened an account here at Caring Bridge.  It seems I'm gonna have some 'splainin' to do.

That lump?  It turned out to be cancer. Of course.  After a sonogram and a CT scan showing adenopathy there in my neck and along my trachea, we suspected lymphoma, which wasn't so scary because I knew it was likely treatable and even curable. But, after a needle biopsy of the lump, we learned that I have lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma.  In my lymphatic system. And that shit's never good.  Adenocarcinoma pretty much presents only in a later stage, so that means I've been walking around with cancer in my body for a good long time. It's already moved in and is trying to make itself a permanent resident. Yesterday, I explained to the cancer that I need my body more than it does, that I was going to have to ask it nicely to leave, and that if it didn't, I was going to forcibly evict it.

Tomorrow, or, er, later today (since anxiety keeps me up at night, and it's already Wednesday) I'll have a bronchoscopy to get a better look at what's going on.  After that, I'm assuming there will be oncology meetings, probably more diagnostic work to stage the cancer (PET scan? Bone marrow sample? Genomic testing? Other?), and we'll come up with a treatment plan if treatment is to be had.

Here's a lovely irony. Recently, I've been wishing for some kind of big change in my life.  I've been doing the same work for over 30 years; it's good work, but I have begun to feel like I need to look at other things, to do something a little more adventurous.  I was considering retiring early, learning some new skills, starting a business, freelancing more, blah, blah, blah.  Instead, the universe has handed me something that I cannot control.  Guess that'll teach me to start making plans, eh?

So for the next few weeks I imagine there will be more waiting, more appointments, more testing, more waiting, some additionally scary bad news, and some hard decisions.  I'm astounded at how slow the process is.  I mean, inside I hear this panicked voice screaming "I've got cancer! Pay attention to me! Treat me right now! The sands are slipping through that hourglass! Let's go! Chop chop!"  And the world just plods on at its excruciatingly bureaucratic pace of insurance pre-approvals and referrals and appointments and more appointments and answers coming in slow drips.  Protocols are protocols. And, well, the bureaucracy is just made up of people doing their jobs, and one more set of medical records to tend to is just another burdensome task. I get it. I saw Brazil. I haven't got the Form 27B/6.

And for me too, there's still the getting up and going to work every day and forgetting sometimes, in the busy day to day, and then remembering again when I climb the stairs.

In reading about this cancer, I've come across information regarding lung screening, how more or less routine lung screenings are being promoted for early detection of cancer, in the same way mammograms are promoted for early detection of breast cancer. Pap smears, PSA tests, all that cancer-sleuthing stuff seems such an ordinary part of the landscape these days, at least for those of us with good access to healthcare.  And I find myself wondering, of course...since I have a history of respiratory illness...shouldn't I have asked for a lung screening a long time ago?  Shouldn't I have somehow suspected that my asthma symptoms might have been masking something else? Not might have been. Were. Are. Definitely.

But, I can't worry about the woulda/coulda/shoulda.  I've got to think about what's now and what's next.

Circling around in my brain the past couple of days is a scene from The Martian with Matt Damon.  The dude's stranded on Mars and has to figure out how to survive with what he's got. His answer? "I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this." So, that's what I'm fixin' to do.

And even though I believe in science and empirical evidence, and methodology and all that...I also know that some part of science is serendipity, and even plain old luck. And in the bigger picture, because I am sometimes spiritual in my inclinations, what I might want to call luck is actually a kind of grace.  So that's what I'm asking for. Some grace. Some mercy. And of course, one mustn't ask for such things if one is not prepared to give the same.  Hold me to it y'all.

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Leslie’s Story

Site created on November 14, 2017

I'm a poet, freelance writer, teacher, yogi, foodie, and lover of art and beauty.  I was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma non-small-cell lung cancer on November 9, 2017.  Here on Caring Bridge you'll find a journal I have started keeping so that family and friends who subscribe can stay updated on treatment and outcomes as I make the journey through cancer-land and survival.  This story is a work in progress, and I have no idea how it will end, but I hope you'll join me, my family, and friends for the telling of it.  I hope too that you will tell me stories of your own.