Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 68 and the R-Word

I am here.  We made it.  Week 68 marks the conclusion of the MEC3 clinical trial for ipilimumab treatment of metastatic melanoma in which I have been participating at Sunnybrook since August 2014.  

I will still have head-to-knee CT scans every three months for monitoring recurrence, and my bloodwork will still travel to Chicago for research purposes, but the technical time frame of the trial is finished.  Pacmen are in and continuing to do their work, and I am looking forward to January when the three month post-treatment time hits and (we are hoping) my side effects will subside.  My last treatment was at the end of September but the tummy trouble, fatigue, and chemo brain remain - January 2016 brings the first of a treatment-free period since my diagnosis in April 2014.  

It is no secret that I have been struggling with my cancer battle, both physically and mentally.  The emotional turmoil rivals my physical scars for pain and confusion.  I can recall the exact moment that I last felt I was my care-free self.  Let's just say it was a long time ago.  My carefree is gone, replaced by anger and fear; I have been working hard to put my life back together in some semblance of what it used to be.  Like a puzzle with some broken pieces, I am hoping I can be put together, just maybe with some tape on the damaged spots. 

This is where I will begin: remission.  Yes, I said it.  Last week I met with my Endocrinologist who monitors my post- thyroid-cancer situation, AND my Medical Oncologist who has my post-melanoma situation under close surveillance.  They both confirmed what my lovely Family Physician suggested, that I can consider both cancers in remission at this time. 

I have told a few people but this is the first official shout from the rooftops... I have had to let the information sink in and have enjoyed a quiet swim in it privately before I could put to words my feelings about it.  I have been in a state of shock since diagnosis a year and a half ago, and now I feel that stress may actually get a reprieve.  

I am in remission.  I feel relieved. 

This is the first time since April 2014 that I actually believe I may live to see my daughters graduate post-secondary school and see them build their lives and families.  

This is the first time I have instinctively felt that I can refer to myself as a Survivor.  

In the past year I have referred to myself as "survivING," but that pales in comparison to the relief and hope I now feel in my heart and soul.  I really may actually have that pacman party I have been talking about.  I may not be done with my cancer war, but I have survived the first battle. Major battle.  Survived. 

My gratitude is enormous, for my family and friends who have helped my girlies and I in countless ways.  I am grateful for the stroke of "luck" that got me the ipilimumab treatment in the randomized draw I signed up for.  I am grateful that my body has been strong enough to tolerate the treatment.  I am grateful for the continuous care and support I get from my medical team.  There are so many pieces that have come together to get me through this past year and a half, it will take me another year and a half to name them all!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the R-Words in cancer, and I do need to clarify my use of the word REMISSION, as it relates to me:

Papillary Thyroid Cancer - my Endocrinologist said that remission is not a term used in this type of cancer.  But my 6-month thyroid ultrasound shows "no evidence of disease."  That is the good part! My bloodwork and scan was normal save for a few enlarged lymph nodes, and I will have another ultrasound six months from now, but in the meantime yes, I can call it "no evidence of disease" thanks to the surgery last December and the radioactive iodine treatment in March 2015.  Thank you!! 

Stage IIIb Nodular Melanoma - similar to the Endocrinologist's explanation, my Oncologist said that remission is not a term used in the field of melanoma treatment, it is actually a Hematology term (blood-related cancers).   She said we can refer to my melanoma as "under surveillance," no evidence of disease at the moment, based on clear CT scans.  I'll take it!  Thank you!!!

In any case, I am going to use the word remission. Remission Remission REMISSION!!

I am still at high risk for recurrence and the melanoma remains the more serious threat, but for now I will bask in the glow of some sweet sweet survivorship and work my ass off to get my life back.  


  1. Wow, fantastic news. Enjoy it.

  2. So freaking AWESOME Nat!!! So happy for you and your family! Keep up the posts if you're up for it you are such a great writer, very talented.
    Have a very Merry Christmas you have so much to celebrate girl!