Holy shit. I have cancer. Not knowing where to begin, I jumped in head first and began reading and researching everything I could about GIST. I was considered high risk – 18/50 mitotic rate, 11cm tumor (turned out to be 7cm) and its location was on the sigmoid colon – very rare and higher risk). I was mastering a medical degree overnight. With all variables working against me, the only thing I was grateful for was that there was no evidence of metastasis. I questioned what does that really mean anyway? There are many cells unseen to the radiologists trained eye. Maybe they just haven’t had enough time to cluster a large enough party train to make their presence known elsewhere. I went through many phases of emotion leading up to surgery. Trying to tackle one by one. Hoping my biopsy would disprove their prognosis. Hoping someone made a huge mistake. Hoping surgery was curable and hoping to extend my tenure in this “thing called life” – a shout out to Prince RIP.
I was fortunate to have a choice between two excellent sugeons. Dr. Strong of NW removed the large mass stemming out from my colon, attached to my bladder and pushing on my uterus (hence the likely fibroid misdiagnosis) along with 17 inches of my colon. With the remaining foot long railroad track of a scar from under my breast plate to my public bone, I had a daily physical reminder of the path my life had taken, even if I was able to block it from my mind from time to time. Since my surgery in August of 2015, I am now an enrolled Gleevac lifer until the obvious resistence beats me to the punch. As much as I try to forget the day to day reality of a cancer diagnosis and what that does to someone, my i-phone promptly reminds me as the clock strikes 9:00 pm to take my little Orange LifeSaver. Don’t get me wrong, I am often reminded by the wonderful support staff of GSI (my other lifeline) of how grateful I am to have Gleevac when options failed to exist not so long ago. The warriors of GSI from patients to caregivers have provided me more than I could ever convey in words.
I worry about those who I will leave behind, about how I will spend the remainder of my life, about the long-term effects on my body of being a pharma-junkie but know it beats the alternative. I hope advancements in GIST come soon enough for me to experience and benefit from and if not me, others that may come after me. I am grateful for the many trailblazers enrolled in trials pioneering our advancement in GIST. Regardless of all and regardless of whether or not I discredit my lifelong gut feeling and manage to make it out of my 40’s and into my 50’s, I will say that in some strange, twisted way, cancer saved my life. Cancer opened my eyes that remained half shut at times to the noise that often consumes us. I am grateful for this and for so much more that I too often previously took for granted. For the time being, I am going to keep on keeping on…
Just Another Soldier -SD