The next chapter

I think about cells a lot. I picture little dots racing through veins. Millions of little dots all moving in a direction, like a crowded highway. Today, over 7,000 people are riding as part of Pelotonia and in my mind I see them as little dots of white light, riding on a literal highway. 100% of the money they raise with this ride (over $13M so far) will go towards research at the James Cancer Hospital. Most of the people are riding with names on their back, several with mine. It’s not abstract, it’s not just a feel good story. They are actually contributing to saving my life.

We met with my new oncologist (love her!) this week and went through my new treatment plan. I have what they call “primary refractory” cancer. If you Google it it’s grim (seriously, just don’t), but most of the studies are limited, decades old and include all age groups. Ten years ago they would be discussing how to give me a few years, but now they are saying there is a really good chance I will be completely cured. Cured, from cancer. This is because of the research people are riding for today. I’m doing a new, aggressive four step plan that includes immunotherapy and essentially uses my own body to help fight cancer. Science!

Next week I start a trial chemo which will involve using two low-toxicity chemo drugs instead of three (or worse, a traditional long-term high-toxicity chemo). I will do this twice over the course of two months (which seems like a holiday compared to the 12 sessions I did before). After this I will do a bone marrow transplant aka a stem cell transplant. They will take my blood, purify it, wipe out my system, then put my blood back in. A reboot, if you will. After that we will hit the primary location with a few shots of radiation, then I start immunotherapy for about a year. It won’t be fun, but it does sound promising. My doctor specializes in cases like mine and has made it very clear — their goal is to cure completely.

There are a lot of uncertainties in life. There is, in actuality, very little we have control over. All of my oncologists comment on how healthy I am and I want to point out the irony in that. There is no shield from the curveballs of life — healthy, happy, good — they don’t protect you, they just make it a whole lot easier. No matter what, I have these incredibly bright white lights of people in my life. The past year has been a lesson in the kindness and strength of people both inside and outside of our circle. They don’t protect us, but they do make it so much easier. They enter our story at a time when it is not particularly enjoyable and say “ I am choosing to be a part of this chapter”. Thank you — all of you — for making this chapter richer and giving us more chapters to look forward to.

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