Friday, August 16, 2013

How Do We Know When the Piece of Art is Finished?

The original to this title was written almost two years ago, in September, 2011.  Scroll Down a few blog entries to read the original.  (It's about a gorgeous piece of art at the half-way point that was made clumsy-looking when completed.  Somebody had the wisdom to photograph the piece at its point of beauty. But we didn't know it couldn't be replicated later and we didn't anticipate completing it would render it thick and ordinary.)

  Then it was another 17 months before I added my next update.  In the interim I was found to have advance stage ovarian cancer.  Major surgery, immediately followed by major chemotherapy.  There were six chemo infusions that kept me sick for about 5 months more. Later, about 5 months after the end of chemo, monthly blood tests started to show a rise in CA-125# that could indicate cancer.  After three months of rising numbers a CAT scan was ordered that showed no visible internal changes.  Ten weeks later a PET scan (more detailed imagery) showed three areas of suspicious activity.  Metastases along my aorta, liver, and in the lymph nodes, left groin area.  They're small, the size of little Rice Krispies.  They were found in March, 2013.

Since April 5, 2013, I am back on chemotherapy. Oh, but wait, there's more.  My husband suffered a major heart attack on the night of March 31/April 1.  I had to leave his intensive care bedside to run to another hospital for a pre-chemo test. He started out in terrible shape, but he has recovered very well and has stents installed.  We are no strangers to stress-related illness.  Routine exercise is now our friend (both of us when my strength permits).  Matt is now healthy and strong again.

The side effects from chemo can be bizarre, the treatment for this disease is beyond barbaric.  And the costs are ridiculous.  I was just informed that health insurance may now have a lifetime limit of 4 PET Scans. Patients would have to pay out of pocket for any more than that. This one coming up is #3.  If I max out the limit I may have to pass the hat or die from undetected and therefore, untreated, cancer.  My doctor said once before, "I can't treat something I can't see."  Go ahead and look up how much PET scans cost patients vs. insurance companies.  I might need to research what's available in Canada.  We're only an hour away from Windsor, Ontario.

So, How do we know when a piece of art is finished? What if it's my life we're talking about?  Is it when the treatments can not cure, but can still prolong a life (of repeated suffering)?

There is some indication that the chemo has stopped shrinking the tumors - based on the oft-unreliable CA-125#.  There is a slight rise last month after very little decrease the previous month.  My number is 129.  Up from 127.  It's better than the 279 I started with in April, but very far off the safe-range goal 0-35.

I may have more chemo.  Maybe different chemo meds.  I don't know what's next.  I will know more in late September.

I have no control over any of this.  I try everybody's wacky cures, eat this, drink that, juice these specific vegetables, take these supplements, [don't take supplements, they'll interfere with chemo], zap electricity to your meridians, get acupuncture, [acupuncture is worthless], ginger works in a petri dish on rat's prostate tumors, rest, [no, you should exercise], avoid meat, [no, you have to rebuild your damaged bone marrow, you should eat meat], smile, cry, [don't cry], read, [don't read that!]  

Oh, you're anxious?  We have pills for that.

On one of those days that I couldn't stop crying I asked the question, "Is it worth living like this if all I can do is cry?" and the answer I got was "Yes."

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