You know that feeling when you’re dining at a Chinese restaurant, and the moment comes along when the waiter delivers your check along with a handful of fortune cookies for each member of the party. Whether you want to eat the cookie or not, you tear open the plastic packaging, crack the cookie and immediately pull out your fortune. Usually, it’s a disappointment – indeed there are websites with bad fortune cookie quotes. Sometimes, your fortune is right on point – like today, my fortune could not be more relevant.
When the last diagnosis came – that the tumor returned – I certainly did not have a lot of hope. I had a lot of love and joy from others, but I felt defeated and hopeless. Most treatment options were off the table – no radiation, no surgery, and chemotherapy was a risk. My medical team was perplexed. I had some very difficult conversations with my doctors and my family. I was in excruciating pain and doped up on so many pain meds I could barely communicate. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. What treatment was on the table? Where was the hope?
Hope is the best stimulant of life and it came along in the form of a treatment called immunotherapy. (You may know of this treatment as the one used by former President Jimmy Carter). But, your oncologist cannot just write a prescription for the drug, as he or she would with chemotherapy. My oncologist, my champion, Dr. Don Dizon, had to (a) seek approval from the hospital and (b) find a way to fund the treatment, as it can cost $12,500 per month. Somehow or other, Dr. Dizon worked his magic and (a) received approval from Mass General and (b) convinced the manufacturer, Merck, to cover the cost. I like to call it a #merckmiracle.
Hope is the best stimulant of life and so are results. I had heard that immunotherapy can literally “melt” your tumors away, but I found that hard to believe. I didn’t think it was happening to me…after my second treatment, I was still in pain and the tumor wasn’t going anywhere. Or so I thought…About a week later, four weeks following my first treatment, the pain finally began to subside and I was feeling less discomfort. A week later, the doctor examined the tumor and she estimated that the tumor had shrunk at least 30% since the biopsy. Since then, I have felt no pain. I am finally hopeful everything is moving in the right direction.
Hope is the best stimulant of life and so are red shoes (you know how I feel about shoes!) On a recent shopping outing, I came across a pair of red Tory Burch flats that I had to have. Now, it’s the middle of summer and I don’t know when I will need professional dress. Totally unnecessary, yes, but as I told my mom, they give me hope that soon my life will settle back into a new normal that will require cute red flats! Cha-ching!
Hope is the best stimulant of life and having hope brings light into my life. I have spent a lot of time in the dark, but I am starting to see the light.