Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

April 13th – “So far so Good”

I had my first CT Scan this week and the results are very encouraging. Dr. Maki reported that one of my tumors is already considerably smaller and the other one has “shown signs” of reacting to the chemotherapy. Originally, the Dr. thought that the second tumor was attached to my pancreas which might make for a more difficult surgery down the road. However, the second tumor has moved a bit within my abdominal area which is a sign that it may not be attached to an organ which is good news for both my surgeon (easier surgery) and me (easier recovery).

Apparently, only about 50% of the time, Dr’s can see a response to chemotherapy after just six weeks of treatment so this “activity” is very good.

And my prize for responding so well to the chemo…another 6 weeks of chemo! The Dr. told us to be prepared for 3-12 months of chemo so this is not surprising. Although I was hoping he would say I am done!

I left the Dr’s office feeling upbeat but not as excited and happy as I thought I should have been. I guess the hardest part for me during this whole process is to understand what good news really is…I mean, the last time I went through chemo, I could not have responded better (if you remember, the Dr’s said I was in the top 5% of all cases and I asked “why not the top 1%?!?”) and the cancer still came back after 14 months. I have to get used to the fact that any appointment with an “the absence of bad news” is a good meeting.

A friend of mine equated my response to an athlete who gets an injury and is forced to be in physical rehabilitation for a period of time. The athlete really is not that interested in the process of his treatment (e.g. “it looks like the bone is healing well”); they are just interested in when they can start to get in the game again. For me, I just want to know when I can sit back and not worry about this anymore. Unfortunately, we all know that this will not be the case for many years. Even after my active treatment, I still need to get through at least 3 years until odds are in my favor that I won’t relapse again. This is a hard pill to swallow. So, I am working hard to get used to taking “one meeting at a time” and celebrating the small wins along the way. I guess this is a good lesson. I think many of us would live a happier, more fulfilled life if we took this lesson to heart: one day at a time, celebrating the ordinary good news along the way.

Dave and I asked Dr. Maki to show us the scans this time and point out my tumors. It may come as a surprise to many of you, but we had never really examined them before. Why should we? We trust MSKCC and my entire team of Dr’s and we believe in them. As we looked at the “ tumors” (he pointed them out and I couldn’t even differentiate between my tumors and my organs), I thought that it is incredibly ironic that I haven’t felt the effects of the tumors since December, 2004 when I was first diagnosed.

As you remember, the tumor had progressed so far by that point that I was experiencing fairly significant side effects (fevers, night sweats, weight loss). Since my surgery in December, 2004, I have felt great! The only side effects that I have experienced are due to the chemotherapy rather than the cancer.

Dave keeps on reminding me that it is better this way; to feel great and live a normal life as opposed to be constantly “reminded” of the disease. I know this is the right way to think about it but sometimes, I can’t help but feel like I am on Candid Camera or Punk’d and this whole thing is a joke. “Jen, we just wanted to see how you would handle cancer, but don’t worry, you really don’t have it”.

It’s made me realize that I have complete faith in the team at MSKCC. I am going through surgeries, chemotherapy etc. because they “tell” me I have tumors, not because I feel them. I looked up “faith” in the dictionary the other day and the definition is belief that is not based on proof. I realize that although the Dr’s have all the “proof” they need in the form of x-rays, CT scans, blood work etc, that I feel no proof or evidence that I have the disease.

As I went on an 8 mile run yesterday and felt GREAT the entire time, I realized that it’s probably better for me to have faith in the Dr’s and no proof of the disease. Let’s hope this continues!