Where I Am: Living with Cancer
The Mormon Channel has been doing a fun photo sharing campaign on social media. Share your photos, using the hashtag#WhereIAm, and express where you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
I sense lately from people who’ve asked me the typical question, “How are you?” that there is more behind it, more of a question that mirrors the one from the Mormon Channel such as, “How are you really doing physically? emotionally? spiritually?”
Rather than blurt out an awkward “cancer update” or “Here’s where I’m at with my cancer treatment” when people ask this question, I felt it was time to take to the blog and write and express how I’m living with cancer.
One year ago, in the middle of promoting Twelve Stones to Remember Him, I identified that the symptoms I was having were just not normal and needed to either escalate to the point of needing medical attention or they needed to recede and stop bothering me.
After praying for some guidance on this, the symptoms did increase to the point that I knew that I needed to make an appointment with a specialist and follow through on that. You can read about my journey with neuroendocrine cancer here.
Where am I today? Physically?
I visited the oncologist last week, and we both agreed I’m doing pretty well. Although I do not currently have any tumors large enough to register on scans, he does believe small neuroendocrine tumors are in my liver as indicated by what my blood markers show.
Despite what might sound like a discouraging progression of disease, it is really the end of a year of uncovering the extent and stage of disease, more than anything. Most importantly, he is confident that I’m physically stable with the treatment I am now receiving.
What is that treatment? I receive long acting shots of Sandostatin every three weeks. Here’s a bit about what that is:
Octreotide (the generic name for Sandostatin) and Lanreotide are medicines that are called “Somatostatin Analogues”. They are synthetic versions of a natural hormone we all make called somatostatin. It’s like the brake pedal of your body. It slow digestion, hormonal function, and a lot more. Unfortunately, the natural stuff only lasts 2 minutes and is broken down quickly. Octreotide and lanreotide, on the other hand can last for 4-6 hours, and when given in the depot version, last for a month. Both medicines bind to the somatostatin receptor on NETs and help them to both decrease hormone secretion and growth. — Read more from Dr. Eric Liu at the Healing Net Foundation
Those hormone secretions have been the biggest challenge and what I believe alerted me that something was wrong in the first place. With this medication, I don’t have many side effects beyond a small amount of nausea and pain at the injection site. Plus, my blood markers show some response.
Does that mean I’m going in remission? Not really. In the last year, I’ve learned that cancer, especially neuroendocrine cancer, isn’t that black and white.
This is a chronic cancer, and this medication is keeping the tumors in check. With the right monitoring, care and treatment, it is very manageable.
I may have other treatments in the future and like other chronic diseases, it will be in the background of my life, but right now I’m happy to be standing on stable ground, even though it is cold Minnesota ground at that.
Where I am emotionally? Spiritually?
Again, I’ve often reacted in terms of black and white with my emotions–negative experiences meant sad, positive ones meant happy.
Believe me, I don’t like the pain or the unidentified causes of some of my symptoms. The little things are the biggest irritants. It’s always been that way in my life. Progressing through this trial, though, has shown me that I can magnify those negatives or deal with them the best I can and focus my energy somewhere positive (like Friday’s release of Flowers of Grace).
I feel more joy and happiness. I feel a greater senses of calm about the future even though I have a more obscure picture of what it looks like. I count active everyday, every hour faith and gratitude as the reason for this change. Both consciously turn me to God so that I can see He is my helper in this, not my enemy.
So, here’s where I am: Just as I stand on stable ground in a Minnesota winter, this season with cancer isn’t one I’d choose. But the light of the gospel still shines and I know where I’m pointed and how I’m going to get there—by enduring well.
What about you? How would you express where you are emotionally? physically? spiritually? Share in the comments. Send me an email. Or share your photo on social media.