In remission (with close monitoring)

Rich and I met with the oncologist on Wednesday morning, and she confirmed that Rich is, “In remission, with close monitoring.”

The tumor has shrunk to a state where the doctors feel safe just monitoring it for growth or changes. They will do blood work and a chest x-ray every 2 months, as well as CT and PET scans, as needed (probably every 3 months).

We move from fighting cancer, to monitoring it. Being active, to being passive. Waiting and watching. Another step of faith.

Kaiser sent Rich’s films to Stanford for a second opinion. Stanford’s tumor review board looked at them, and thought the residual mass looked like scar tissue (not cancer). The only way to prove whether or not there is cancer left, is with surgery. Since Rich’s mass isn’t a nice solid mass, but rather blanket-like over his small intestine, kidney and vena cava (major artery), and seminoma creates extremely difficult scar tissue to navigate surgically, they are opting to NOT recommend surgery right now. It is less risky to wait, than to go ahead with the surgery at this point.

Our initial reaction to Rich being done with treatment was a feeling of being overwhelmed in a good, but extremely tentative way. Part of us didn’t believe it…it seemed to good to be true. Another part was waiting for the doctors to change their minds, calling us to tell us they had scheduled surgery…yet another part was feeling a bit scared to transition from actively fighting the disease, to simply trusting that it’s gone.

How do you live with the idea that the cancer can reappear? That there might be some left? That regular monitoring will be a part of Rich’s life for the rest of his life? Well…you pray. And then you come to the same conclusions that we’ve been realizing through this entire journey:

1. Every day is a blessing, and a gift. Tonight, the oppressive heat of August day is giving way to the cool mountain breezes of the night. It’s a gift to breathe the soft, fresh air…even if it’s only for a few moments while I take out the garbage.

2. Life is fatal. There is a 100% chance of death at some point during your life. Growing old is not a right, but a privilege that many will never experience. Cancer is just one way people die. That’s where the 18 words come into play…and there is peace there.

3. God is faithful, has good plans for us, and he loves us. We can trust in that.

When I was driving home from work the other day, marveling over the fact that we still have a business, though we’ve been virtually absent now for 4 months…and our staff still shows up to work, and does their jobs as if they themselves own the business (thank you!); and we still have a home, and food on our table; and our kids did not get sick during Rich’s chemo, even though they were in full time daycare; a simple fact struck me: God’s love, grace and mercy is not about what I do. Or how hard I work. Or how well I can promote our business to make sure it stays in business. Or how good of a mom I am, or wife, or home owner.

God’s love just simply is. No expectations. No strings attached. He loved me first…even before I acknowledged him. It’s a type of love that cannot be matched by a human…even my husband, whom I love, love, love. It’s both humbling and awesome. It’s a love you can trust in. A love that provides. A love that surpasses human comprehension. A love that sustains you, and comforts you, when life makes no sense at all.

After we talked to the oncologist, we went to visit several of the nurses and the oncology pharmacist, to tell them Rich’s good news. The pharmacist told Rich that he did the best on his specific chemo regimen (BEP), of anyone he’d ever seen. He said that 50% of people who begin the regimen quit because the side effects (particularly nausea) are so strong. (I’m glad he didn’t share that statistic with us when we started this journey!) He was amazed at Rich’s attitude during treatments, endurance and lack of side effects from the chemo, and will be duplicating the anti-nausea medicine schedule he prescribed to Rich for all future patients who receive the type of chemo Rich did. What he cannot duplicate, however, area all of the prayers that interceded on Rich’s behalf to make life endurable, despite the severity of his treatment. We believe the prayers made all of the difference between what science can prove (that Rich was on a very intense, yet very effective chemo regimen); and what it cannot predict (individual reactions to the chemo).

This week has brought other milestones:

Last Saturday, we went to Yosemite for a picnic in El Capitan Meadow. It was “Fee Free” day in Yosemite, and there were thousands of cars on the twisting roads, which made for many Prilosec moments. Still, we managed to find a quiet, private spot in the midst of the chaos, and it was a gift to eat in the shade of an old grove of Oak trees.

We went to The Forks at Bass Lake for burgers, and Rich ate normally and quite happily. His appetite is almost completely back now, and our grocery bill has escalated accordingly.

He’s been playing and reading to the kids, and they are LOVING having their Daddy off the couch, and in their lives. Rich even went to Kindergarten roundup with us last week, which made Allison feel very special.

His hair is starting to grow back, so if you haven’t seen Rich bald, now is the time to do it.

Today, we worked for a good chunk of the day, and while his mind is still a bit scattered, he accomplished many, many things that only he can do…

Life is beginning to fall back into place. Sort of. It will take awhile to have a normal schedule again, but there is a huge sense of freedom in the fact that we do not have even ONE doctor’s appointment next week.

It was also a huge gift to know that Rich is in remission as Allison started kindergarten this week. Since July, I feared that his surgery would fall during these first few weeks of school. It’s been a huge burden lifted, to know that he does not need surgery, and instead can work on recovery. Allison LOVES kindergarten…seeing friends every day…and especially loves her teacher. But, it’s been quite an adjustment for all of us…waking up early, having a tight schedule, and going to school for 6.5 hours a day (it’s full day kindergarten here).

We’re all happy for the weekend…for life slowly being restored…and especially for healing. Though the cancer is in remission, the journey continues, and we hope to post more as Rich recovers. Please continue to pray for us as we go through this time of transition.

And, here are some photos of our sweet kindergartener on her first day of school:

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9 Responses to “In remission (with close monitoring)”

  1. The Fonda's Says:

    We are rejoicing with your family at this news of transition. You said it so well, it will still require a faith walk. We will pray that you will find your strengh in Him alone and continue to live one day at a time. Be joyful in your hope, The Fonda’s

  2. Mary Says:

    I am so happy to hear the great news!!!!! Your family will remain in my prayers.

  3. Mary Pearson Says:

    Beautiful! We love you all dearly! Autumn was excited to see the pictures of Allison. Hope to catch up soon. Love you friend!

  4. Michael Says:

    Hey you guys…so so so stoked to hear this news. I have been basically living in the backcountry and east side this summer and so, haven’t really been able to be there for you two in a way that I wanted to be. You have, however been in my thoughts every day. Looking forward to having Rich back in the captains seat. He is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement in my life. See you both soon. Heading up to Hungry Packer Lake and Picture Peak tomorrow, with the Minarets following. Maybe Rich can join for a burger sometime soon…

    Love you both

    Michael

  5. Laurie Says:

    Beautifully written as usual, Susan…You have such a gift!!!

    The pictures are priceless…thanks for sharing.

    Hope to see you soon.

    Laurie

  6. Beth and Mikie Says:

    You all have made it through such challenging part of this journey, and I am overwhelmed with joy that you are on the other side of this hurdle, and are still looking up to Him who saves us all.
    Love you guys-

  7. Kathy Mohorter Says:

    Susan and Rich, God is so good!!! I’m so happy for all of you with this news! I’ll continue to keep you in prayer and to keep Rich’s name in our prayer book. pleas give my love to your Mom and Dad Susan. Love and prayers cousin Kathy

  8. Eric Hagen Says:

    I was thinking of you all today. It has been a month since this last post, I have been wondering how everything is going. You are still in our prayers.

  9. Korina Gutierrez Says:

    Susan I am so blessed to hear this 😀 You guys have stayed in my prayers and I am so overwhelmed at the work of the Lord. Enjoy basking in his love for you Susan. And Alison at Wasuma! How great, I used to go there too back in the day :S I will be stopping by the studio soon, I have a pie coming your way thanks to TR’s apples. Much love your way! -Korina

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