Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Productive 34 Days

I drank the red juice and received the radioactive injection into my arm. I laid on the narrow table, arms
overhead, as the machine whirred around me and the table shifted me painfully slowly as images were taken of every millimeter of my body. For 20 minutes I laid there with my legs propped over a pillow pyramid and rolled towels on either side of my head so that it wouldn't move out of the carved pillow it was cradled in.

With each in-breath I said in my head: "I am." With each out-breath: "all clear." I imagined light rays everywhere and healing golden yellow pouring over my cells in the consistency of slow moving, soothing honey rolling over any cancer cells and converting them to healthy ones. My mind would drift to fearful, bad places. My eyes spilled some hot tears down my cheeks with the weight of knowing how important this first post-transplant PET Scan was. Along with my meditation a steady track of that Five For Fighting song, "Superman," kept running over and over in my head: "I'm only a man in a silly red sheet digging for kryptonite on this one way street. Only a man in a funny red sheet looking for special things inside of me ... it's not easy to be, me."

I kept thinking of a very vivid memory I have of being 17 years old and pulled over to the side of the road in my light powder blue Toyota Corolla (pic is from six years later when I traded that baby in). I was crying hysterically into the steering wheel to "Superman" playing on the radio because I was so exhausted and stressed that I had to go from my summer playground counselor job right to scooping ice cream until close at Peaches 'n Cream. How blissfully unaware I was. It made me smile.

Monday night and Tuesday morning were tough as we awaited the results of the PET Scan. Tuesday Craig and I went into clinic and tensely awaited not only the scan results, but my first post-transplant bone marrow aspiration procedure.

Dr. Sauter had just returned from a cruise around the Mediterranean. He was slightly bronzed and whistling and obviously rested. I immediately feel at ease around him, his expertise and his easy demeanor. I was slightly high on an Ativan to try and calm my nerves, was squeezing Craig's hand like it was a speedster's joy stick, and had Bob Marley playing through my headphones. The doctor came into the procedure room where I was on the table my pants were already down, my ass out and skin prepped for him to drill through my hip bone and send a needle into my marrow. He would pull out my stem cells and send them for analysis to see how much of my sister's genetic makeup had taken over.

After the initial pleasantries he immediately calmly and laxidasically said: "Your scan looks good."

I perked up. "What do you mean, good?"

"I haven't gotten the full radiologist's read yet, but from my take it looks like all areas of involvement are gone," said Dr. Sauter.

I could physically feel the weight lift off me, though my buns were still clenched with the anticipation of the marrow aspiration to come.

He looked at my hip bone awaiting him and said: "You're so thin this will be easy," paused and continued "... for me." All three of us laughed and I laid there ironically so at peace with the news of my clear scan while Craig looked on in interest as the procedure progressed and Dr. Sauter muscled and drilled into my bone.

I squeezed Craig's hand harder as the needle went up and down into my marrow and Dr. Sauter kept repeating very soothingly: "Slow, deep breaths; slow, deep breaths." Then it was over and the deep red blood cells from the syringe were smeared onto glass slides to be analyzed. I've never left a bone marrow biopsy smiling as big as I was underneath my mask.

The clinic day continued and we met more formally with the doctor. The radiologist's report came in to officially confirm that there was "interval resolution of FDG avid osseous lesions, right axillary and retroperitoneal lymph nodes." In English: THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF LYMPHOMA. No lesions remain on my sacrum and bones. The spot in my chest is gone. My abdomen is clear. The lead in chemo was effective and my sister's immune system has started working to keep the cancer away.

I am not out of the woods yet and Craig and I both know this all too well. But for right now we are accepting this as very good news. A miracle in my eyes. This is a huge sign that the hellish days I've gone through were worth every ounce of torture and that the gift of life my sister has given me is blossoming inside of me.

This news has done a tremendous amount for my mental and emotional healing. I now know in measurable terms that I am on my way to being healed. I am on my way to being cured of this cancer forever. I am in awe of this science and grateful beyond words.



21 comments:

  1. the best news i've read in a long time -- keep fighting karin!!!

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  2. Hallelujah,hallelujah - that is one oddly spelled word - but hey for such a momentous occasion, such a word serves the occasion - rise up with joy, why don't we, for Karin's body's success such far? - keep on healing, keep on believing - you are on your way to pure, unrelenting health and well being.Never let f#%*!&%* cancer back in!

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  3. what an incredibly amazing wonderful joyful great fantastic absolutely AWESOME piece of news! rejoicing with you from across the atlantic! praying for your continued recovery. xx

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  4. Karin,

    I am so happy for you and your loving, wonderful family! Congratulations!

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  5. My tears today are those of joy for you. There isn't much else to say.

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  6. Oh Karin - joy and rapture for you today!

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  7. Oh, what WONDERFUL news!!! I'm so happy for you, and Craig, and your fabulous sister and her kickass bone marrow, and oh YAY! This was a wonderful post to find in my reader this morning :)

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  8. So, so, so happy for you! I'm moved to tears by your story and your fighting spirit. I felt like I was right there with you for the PET scan. Love the "I am" and "all clear" mantra; that's the best way to get through those scans. Rock on! Nothing but smiles and happy thoughts coming to you from Houston.

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  9. Karin and family,
    The best news in a very long time we are all so very thrilled for you and your family. Keep smiling because good things will keep on coming.

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  10. Thank you God for this miracle for this precious brave girl and her wonderful family. Please keep it coming! Love Irene

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  11. Greatest news! I hope the aspiration was not nearly as painful as I imagine it must have been. My thigh ached reading about it.

    Keep up your good thoughts--all clear, all clear.

    Karin

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  12. OH that cautious excitement. Feeling lots of love and support for you both. I do have tears in my eyes. Lots of them. Good ones.

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  13. YES!!!YES!!!YES!!! Awesome news!!!

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  14. Such great news...so happy for you & your fam!!

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  15. Such great news!
    I just started Everolimus and am hoping for good results!

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  16. you are the strongest person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Keep fighting- you are an inspiration!

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  17. Your GHAC family was sobbing with joy yesterday! What a great way to celebrate end of campaign and your birthday. We even had volunteers using healing arts - a yoga salutation - to accept their awards. You were with us in spirit. xoxo

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  18. *HAPPY DANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*

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  19. we are so thrilled at the success you are having now!!!

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  20. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YESS YESS YESS YESS YESSSS AMAZINGNESS!!!!!! ok now, plz no GVHD *crosses fingers* and omg I so totally feel for you. I'm so relieved. I remember after my SCT when I spent a few weeks at home after everything that the past year and a half had been, I was just so relaxed, it re-fueled me to tackle whatever came afterwards. So pleased that you got these results. Thank god.

    -missC

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