If you want to watch the video, before you start reading this post, here's some instructions: First hit play on the video, then fast forward to 2:33. Now hit pause and let the video load whilst reading blog. Then after reading blog watch the video. It was taken in late November, I'm the guy in the black jersey and gray shorts climbing up the hill at 2:33. You can keep watching to watch a great race unfold, where I eventually placed 2nd against some people I never, ever, thought I'd beat in a bicycle race. Now, to be clear: my 'disease' has not progressed at all since then. On that day, a scan of my body would have looked the same as the scan posted yesterday. Strange, yes, but true. This is the point of this post. 3 posts in a row of sullen, difficult to swallow news is enough. It is time now to put things in perspective. Ok, now follow above instructions and read on.
A couple of facts before we move on:
1. The scan shown in my prior post is a 'post-treatment' scan. Meaning, many of those cells which are showing up as black, are doomed to die.
2. This has been my 5th radioactive iodine treatment. The first 4 were within the first year and a half after my February 2005 diagnosis.
3. I have known, all to well, that I've never been in 'remission'. That is to say that since my last post-treatment scan in August 2006 (a couple of weeks before taking the MCAT) I've have known there are multiple (countless), 1-3mm nodules in my lungs. However, in the past, they had been mostly in the lower lobes, now, mostly upper lobes. I've also known that there is random disease throughout my neck.
4. Fact number 3 has been dealt with, medically speaking, in two ways. The first has been a blood test every 2-3 months measuring a protein that my cancer cells release. The second has been removing the signal for those cells to grow by taking a large dose of thyroid hormone every day. For the medical minds: high T4/3-->ultra-low-TSH-->suppression of thyroid cancer.
5. My blood marker has been present but very stable since August of 2006. A big change in that marker or a decline in my own 'function' were the things we worry about.
Point number 5 is important. My own biology is co-existing with a rather smart parasite. We have the parasite on a leash via the TSH suppression but my tumor biology is co-existing quite well with my biology. We've adapted to each other. Clearly my lung function is good (maybe you want to take a break and go watch that video now) and luckily, thankfully, I don't have any back pain (I'm speaking here about the nodule in my vertebrae). I've even taken some pretty nasty falls recently. Actually, 2 weeks ago I was walking down some steps at our apartment and fell really hard after slipping on some ice. I had a headache the whole next day and definitely didn't feel a vertebrae break. Make no mistake about it however, I do have an ugly and atypical form of thyroid cancer and it is definitely true for me that the statistics, both positive or negative statistics, don't apply.
Yesterday it was around 40 degrees and raining here in Columbia, MO. I had woken up with Cassidy around 5:30, made pancakes for all of us, wrote a bit on the blog, and then went for a ride on the road. I was riding past the big tree, see pics below:
and right then, looked up and saw an incredible, soaring bald eagle. As I rode by that tree I said, "Big tree, teach me. I can't do it without you". To surrender is a powerful thing, no matter whether you're an atheist, a spiritual person, or religious. Almost immediately, I felt empowered.
At breakfast this morning, I was telling Cassidy about where milk comes from and we thanked the cows, farmers, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and dada (me. I poured the milk!). It reminded me of my wife's favorite thing her yoga teacher says and now I'm about to write to you. Maybe after you read it you should stop and think about it or just say it (I don't mean to command anything or anyone, just sharing my experience): "Before we go on, let's take a minute to offer up some gratitude for the good, great fortune that is our lives".
Thanks and gratitude to everyone who has been reading, writing, callin, etc. I can't tell you how much it means.
This post is getting long, so I'm going to end it soon. But before I do, I need to say that I have been given 2 weeks off from my fellowship to process the news of the bony met, to make a treatment plan, and to reflect a bit on what I really want to be doing. I have no answers yet to those questions.
Lastly, you can stop reading now if you're not a cyclist. To all BoCoMo riders, teammates, and friends with whom I ride: One of my doctors told me bike riding, as long as it isn't to 'jarring' is a fantastic activity for me right now. So don't kid yourself thinking I'm not going to be pulling into the wind anytime soon. Mountain bikers out there, I'm not quite sure about that situation yet. The whole concern is the vertebral nodule. I'm thinking maybe full suspension.