Once upon a time, Sam's cancer journey was foremost in our minds here at the Scofield house. We changed our lives, or our lives were changed, because of his diagnosis. The sky was bluer, the air was fresher, the days were more important to recognize - life was too short to be focused on the petty things.
But these days, cancer is just life as we know it.
Part of that outlook happens because God is in control, and we have learned to let the panic go. It took time, but we've slowly recognized that fact. Part of that outlook happens because Sam never quits, Sam isn't going to let cancer slow him down if he can help it, and Sam isn't going to give up and let cancer be the description of his year.
Besides, 2020 has other descriptors.
COVID happened, although, fortunately so far, it has remained at bay in our town, with less than five diagnoses here as of this journal post. That isn't to say we've dismissed it - we have a "self quarantine" sign at each of our doors to let potential guests know we are distancing ourselves. We have a stack of masks and a supply of Lysol/hand sanitizer/disinfecting wipes at the ready. In the first weeks of the pandemic, we were very vigilant - not fearful - just trying to be as careful as we could possibly be... Our wonderful neighbors helped us out by going to the grocery store for us, we left delivery packages outside or thoroughly wiped them down before bringing them inside, and we did not see anyone face-to-face other than Sam's oncologist and team.
But as the weeks rolled into months, our guard has waned a little, and we've relaxed our virus standards. However, if things continue on the path they are on right now, it looks like we will have to reconstruct the wall and return to stringent living.
In the midst of all that has taken our focus off Sam's cancer journey, the journey continues. There really have not been any drastic changes. Sam is still full of superpowers every two weeks, battling with chemo treatments every other Wednesday for half a day. He still takes a huge hand full of pills and supplements, morning and evening. He still takes the dog de-wormer in a spoonful of yogurt every morning, 6 days a week. We do not see an end in sight for this whole routine. The oncologists continue to tell Sam that this will be his routine for as long as he is strong enough to handle it. They discourage him from stopping chemo treatments with his track record of metastasis.
His hair is now wavy/curly and his eyelashes are freakishly long, thank you panitumumab. His face tends to break out in a rash, especially around his mouth and under his nose - wearing a mask in hot weather certainly doesn't help that side effect. He continues to deal with diarrhea - it is just part of the deal with irinotecan chemo. His magnesium level has dropped, and that required a 4 hour magnesium infusion last week prior to having chemo. As the chemo takes a more permanent residence in his body, he has found that some weeks, his body requires a little more rest and recovery. It used to be that Sam bounced back to Sam-ness in less than 24 hours post chemo. Now, it can be 48 hours or longer. We just never know how treatment will go from week to week.
One thing we DO know - he always bounces back.
Another thing we DO know? His latest CT scans last week were REMARKABLE, and his blood work continues to compete with any healthy person without cancer.
- His CEA (a blood test/cancer marker) is 1.5 - normal is 2.5, so once again...Sam-ness.
- One of the nodules in the lower right lobe is now undetectable.
- There is no evidence of popcorn nodules in the lungs.
- There is still no evidence of the cancerous lymph node under his clavicle.
- Everything else in the lower abdomen is stable and unchanged.
- His liver looks good.
- No new cancer can be seen.
He is keeping his weight steady, currently in the range of 165-170 pounds. He makes a game of trying to guess his weight each time he steps on the scale at appointments - and he is usually within a 1/2 pound. His appetite is mostly good, except for chemo day and post chemo day. Those days, he doesn't eat much at all.
It is life as we know it, that's all. I say it is pretty miraculous. I look at Sam every day and see God's blessing in the form of a walking miracle.
We'd like to keep Sam healthy and continuing on this path, so thank you, all of you who read this, for wearing a mask in public while on this 2020 rollercoaster. There are a lot of Sams out there who stand by you at the store or pass you in a hallway or ride with you on an elevator or sit next to you in an office or at church. We don't know if masks help or not - the experts are still trying to figure out the best plan for defeating this virus. But, wearing a mask certainly won't hurt, and it just might keep Sam and all the other Sams from contracting a disease that could be even more devastating than cancer.
Wearing a mask isn't for your safety - it is for the safety of everyone around you. It's such a small act of kindness and compassion, and in the midst of it all, it means a lot to us.