Update from Miles about the emotional week that he and Emily had…
Thursday, December 13th
After two more rounds of chemotherapy, Emily went in for her third CT scan. The test is painless and rather quick.
Late that night, we received a phone call from City of Hope with the CT scan results. The tumor had remained stable. No areas of metastasis. Slight shrinkage in the lymph nodes. After several test results showing tumor reduction, Emily and I were thankful for the lack of growth, but slightly disappointed. There is a sense of uneasiness in that it is unknown how long the tumor will remain stable – Years? Months? Not at all?
Wanting to determine the correct plan of action, we emailed Dr. Raja Flores (Surgeon, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City) requesting a phone consultation at his earliest convenience. In addition, we decide to travel to City of Hope the following day in an effort to move the appointment with our oncologist, Dr. Karen Reckamp, from the upcoming Wednesday to Monday.
Friday, December 14th
Amazingly, despite not even being his patient, Dr. Raja Flores responds in the morning and sets up a phone conversation for the early afternoon. Dr. Flores is ranked in the top 1% of his field by US News and World Report and renowned for his ability to perform difficult surgeries. But even more, he is compassionate and understanding of Emily’s uniqueness in terms of her youth and strength, and our determination to defy the odds and beat this disease.
While on our drive to City of Hope, we receive his phone call. He recommends a PET scan to examine the full body for cancer. He has been pleased by Emily’s response and does not want to perform surgery – especially a radical, invasive one (i.e. her entire lung, nodes, etc.) – unless and/or until it is the right time. A PET will provide him with a clearer picture of Emily’s options.
At City of Hope, Emily easily changes her appointment to Monday (how great is their service?!) Then we visit Medical Records to pick up her latest CT reports to send to Emily’s outside team of consulting oncologists and surgeons. While walking out of the hospital, we read the report and quickly notice a glaring problem: “The tumor has no significant change in dimension and is 28 mm x 16 mm.”
But Emily’s tumor was 20 mm x 15 mm according to the previous scan. Had Emily’s tumor grown 8 mm? We sat there in the parking lot, desperately trying to remain calm and focused. Being a Friday, there was no way we were going to leave and sleep on this for the weekend. We quickly returned to Medical Records and requested the previous report. As we expected, it stated the tumor was 20 mm x 15mm. Frantically, we went to Radiology and requested an explanation. Five minutes later, we were in the hallway speaking with the actual technician who reviewed Emily’s scan. The technician explained that she measured the tumor in a different direction and counted the soft tissue. However, when measured the same way as the previous report, the results were the same. The tumor was stable. We were flooded with relief and gratitude.
Monday, December 17th
Emily and I drive to City of Hope for our appointment. We have one goal for the meeting: to get a full body PET scan scheduled. During the drive, we practice our arguments for convincing our team of doctors to order the test. We want the option of surgery and this is the first step.
We walk into the appointment and meet with Dr. Karen Reckamp. She informs us that she is pleased with the latest results: The lining is still clear. The lymph nodes have been reduced to normal size. The tumor has remained stable and, given Emily’s great response to chemo thus far, might even consist largely of dormant tissue (no active cancer cells). How do we tell if this is the case? A PET scan.
Dr. Reckamp requests another round of chemotherapy and a PET scan for early January. If the cancer has not spread at that point, City of Hope wants to explore the possibilities of either surgery or radiation for as early as late-January or February.
On the way home in the car, calling our families on speakerphone, I relay Dr. Reckamp’s statement from our meeting: “We are thinking outside of the box with you, Emily. Our goal is to get rid of this so you can put it all behind you.” One of the few times since her diagnosis, Emily broke down and cried.
Wednesday, December 19th
Emily’s 7th round of chemotherapy was scheduled for Wednesday, with a back-up date set for the day after Christmas if her platelet counts were below 75, as was the case the last two rounds. But Emily came in strong with a count of 129, a fine showing that she attributes to the recent addition of shark liver oil and melatonin to her regimen. And although it had been an emotional roller coaster of a week, Emily approached this chemo session with enthusiasm and in high spirits, feeling both motivated and inspired by the visits and conversations with her medical team.
For the first time, Emily’s therapy did not include the hard-hitting Carboplatin. As a result, the session was dramatically shorter and the new chemo concoction is expected to be less harsh on her body. Still, Emily understands that she must remain disciplined and steadfast in her approach in order to beat this. She will continue to win each moment of each day, never once letting cancer have an opportunity.
Emily and I would like to wish all of you a Happy Holiday season. For Christmas, there is only one gift I would like: my wife to be healthy and free of cancer. And although it may be months before I can open that gift, I am just so excited and thankful that I can now see it under the tree.
Love to all. Live in the Moment,
Emily and Miles