Let me assure you that the frequency of my blog entries is in no way correlated with the amount of life being lived at the Hallows home outside of the blogosphere. I’ve been making a list of the happenings since the last May 30th blog post and it is a fantastic list. Life is rich and full and beautiful. There is also the whole cancer thing going on in the background so let’s update on that here quickly.
I have been on the Palbociclib chemotherapy pill for one month. I start my second month on the treatment tomorrow. Once that is completed in mid August I will wait 1-3 weeks and have another CT Scan. That will tell us what impact the drug is having on the tumors in the lungs. Success will be measured by if the tumors have grown by 20% or less (as I detail later, the tumors grew by about 200% in one month prior to this treatment so slowing the growth rate down to 20% really would be fantastic feat). If that is the case then I will do the Palbociclib drug for another two months and then we will scan again. All of this is being done through the TAPUR clinical trial that is currently open and trying to target specific genetic mutations of cancers.
Physically I feel very mediocre, which for me is a great place to be. I have not had serious side effects from the chemo. No nausea or mouth sores or GI issues. No fevers or sweats or any of the other demonic things that chemo can do to you. That is a wonderful blessing and has made for a fantastic summer. I am always tired and feel like I could fall asleep for hours at almost any moment of the day. So in a very small way I’m getting some empathy training on motherhood. But come on, just in the past 4 weeks I have ridden a horse, flown to LA for a Cubs game, kayaked for hours in a lake with the kids, fished, and done about all the other normal activities of an average day. So I wouldn’t say that I’m really limited physically…unless of course it is something I really don’t want to do like take out the garbage or something and then I suddenly have this terrible aches and pains that don’t allow me to get off the couch. I’ve been trying to tell you guys, having cancer has some serious perks.
Right before I started the clinical trial I had a scan on June 15th. We were hoping to get a read on how successful the radiation therapy had been in shrinking the tumor pressing on an artery in my lungs and my airways. Those parts of the scan were mostly inconclusive. The imaging showed a lot of white “something” in the area where we radiated and some of the surrounding areas. The doctors thought maybe I had an infection or pneumonia that was about to hit me (that didn’t happen). They also thought it could just be inflammation from the radiation or worst case scenario it was more tumor spread. I took it as a great big “who knows” and have mostly just listened to how my body feels. I don’t have trouble breathing and I’m not coughing garbage up. So I am winning on that front.
The other tumors that were in other areas of my lungs grew by about 2x during that 1 month period of time. Not good but also not the end of the world. The biggest one that they saw on June 15th was about 4.5 cm in diameter (up from about 2.2 cm on May 15th). My oncologist said that when tumors in the lungs get to about 15 cm in size they start to become more noticeable to the patient.
Here’s a picture of what one of the tumors looks like in a side by side image of the June 15th image on the left and May 15th image on the right.
On the May 15th image the tumor is 2.2 cm and you can see the black hole on the lower left side of the image where the mouse tracker is — that is about the size of a quarter. On the June 15th image on the left side you can see the black hole is larger and more visible.
For right now, the battle is not a physical one, although I know that stage will return here at some point. It is mostly a mental and emotional struggle for me on the same questions I’ve pondered since things got real with cancer. How should I spend my time today? This week? This month? Next month, or does that even matter? It’s weird. I’m sure I overcomplicate things and am overly preoccupied with the concept of being a steward over an unknown allotment of time. Plus I just really like to have fun and I have a lot of interests and want to do and experience everything. Combine that with my inability to say NO and you’ve got yourself Big Gulp-sized cocktail of uneasiness.
So let’s change topics and talk about the summer.
This summer has been filled with wonderful memories with people I love, so it has been a successful summer. We have enjoyed all the family that visited in June around the Huntsman 140 event and my brother’s departure for his LDS church mission. We have also enjoyed having it just be our family for all of July where we’ve been able to enjoy each other in our normal setting — home, pool, snow shack, American Fork canyon. The plan for the rest of July and August is to lay low in Utah and then do our favorite Newport Beach trip in September and then a Rocky Point trip in October.
I have found that I can feel just as fulfilled in my role as father playing a game of Jake the Pirate Memory or UNO as I do pulling together some big fancy trip with once in a lifetime activities. I think it’s important to do both, but I’m trying not to overlook the opportunity to watch a movie at home with the kids and build legos as I think about overdoing it on some unnecessary extravaganza.
Just like Whitney (my 5 year old) wrote on the paper tie she gave me for Father’s Day “My favorite thing about my dad is when he plays with me.”
Life is more simple than I could have ever imagined.
Here are a few pictures from our last two months.