I wouldn't call this a second opinion as much as a different opinion. Or maybe a fourth opinion. Or maybe just affirmation. Or maybe just my desire for a doctor that isn't passive.
Kyle and I had a clandestine appointment with a new oncologist, and were hopeful that she might be a tiny bit more aggressive and throw out some options other than maintaining the status quo until my lung mets were big enough to impact my life.
I was partly looking for confirmation that I'm doing the right thing in deciding to do another 6 rounds of that brutal treatment from last summer, but also interested in hearing the opinion and options from a doctor with a reputation for being aggressive and willing to trying anything. We got her name and a full vote of confidence from another colon cancer survivor - and the guarantee that she would indeed be balls to the wall about treating me.
During our visit, she reminded me of something I've already heard, but drove it home in such a way that left me feeling good about having cancer - or at least good about having my cancer. In all my talk of gratefulness, I'm always reminding the world that I still have plenty to be grateful for despite having cancer, and that's partly because of the type of cancer I have and how it has responded to treatment.
Not everyone responds to treatment, and I'm reminded of this all too often when I read stories and meet people whose loved one made it mere months, where I'm looking at years.
She reminded me that I have a chronic disease, and I will be treated as such. It's like I'm no different than someone who has high blood pressure or diabetes. I have a chronic illness, that with proper medication and management, can be controlled. I have the potential to live a long life (relatively speaking) with the right management of my disease, and the fact that I've responded so well to just the first line of defense is excellent. As has been pointed out to me before, they haven't even brought in the big guns yet.
And that makes me one of the lucky ones.
So maybe I can put my morbid outlook in the back of the closet for now. If anything, I walked away with the hope that there might be breaks, and I might find time to escape that damn pump. And there might be a chance for me to pretend to be normal for longer periods of time. And most importantly, that I can step back and really look at this in the long term.
She affirmed my decision to do 6 rounds of full-dose chemo this summer, and agreed that shrinking down what's there is the best idea.
I now have a little more motivation to get though those 6 rounds, and it's motivation greater than getting to wear my size 2 teenager shorts for a 3rd summer in a row, or thinning out my obnoxiously thick hair, or restocking my collection of wet wipes and baby butt paste next to the toilet.
Once done, and assuming the tumors shrink as they did last summer, we will revisit this doctor and consider some other options. That may mean taking a break, continuing with just Avastin (my non-chemo cancer drug that keeps blood supply to tumors from forming and has no debilitating side effects), considering surgery or doing something called RFA (radiofrequency ablation). She heard me loud and clear when I told her I just needed a mental health day away from the chemo life, and wants to help make that happen.
So maybe I won't have to go crazy after all.
My first round of FOLFIRI + Avastin is next Tuesday. I'm going to spend this week running my fingers through my hair without piles of it falling out, drinking multiple Chick-fil-A peach milkshakes in an attempt to pack on a few pounds, and pretending for one more week that I am completely normal!