The Latest Glitch in the Plan

I’m heading to my beloved Southern Utah again soon, and I wanted to get this out into the universe before I get lost in fantasy land. The following update on my health doesn’t quite go with traveling and enjoying life, but there are some things in this world you just can’t explain. I heard that in a song once. Here’s today’s challenge: name that song without the help of dear old Google. I’ll just bet that no one remembers it!

Meanwhile, here’s my latest challenge: I recently had a tumor removed. For the record, my cancer did not “come back,” though that’s the word on the street. If the rumormongers were paying attention, they would know that my cancer never went anywhere, it’s just too small to see. What really happened is that one of my known tumors grew large enough to appear on a scan again. So there you have it. The tumor was one that was already there, so it’s not even “new cancer.” It’s a lesion that started growing again, one that was originally discovered in my second round of metastatic lung cancer.

The question that likely looms in your mind is: how can she be going on vacation after surgery and with Stage IV cancer? That’s what most people don’t understand, and the ridiculous posts that those who’ve never had cancer spread around social media just perpetuate the myth that the disease is the same for everyone.

It’s not. I repeat, it’s not.

But let’s get back to my surgery.

Way back in November of 2020, I found a really odd bump growing on my back. That bump turned out to be an outward sign of my well-managed cancer taking control again. Things were pretty messy when I had my next scan, and life wasn’t looking too hopeful. But I started a new medication and the cancer shrunk away to almost nothing. That included the bump, which had grown so big in early 2021 that it would spurt blood whenever something rubbed up against it. Believe me, there’s nothing much uglier than a cancerous tumor growing out of your body. I think of that line from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” often, likening silence to a cancer growth. Take it from someone who knows firsthand, there isn’t anything quiet about a cancerous tumor. Cancer makes your whole life loud whether you want it to or not. But if you’re really lucky, like me, you can ease the noise. Unfortunately, what you have no control over is what others assume, then trumpet to the world without even asking you what’s really going on.

I kept my eye on the bump after all that shrinkage. I could still feel it in my right flank, though it was tiny. For two years it was under complete control.

Fast forward to three months ago. I became concerned about Mr. Bump. It sure seemed to be growing, albeit slowly. My February CT scan confirmed it, as much as I wanted to tell myself it wasn’t true. The other areas of metastasis (yeah, there are several) continued to be under control. I was offered localized surgery to remove the cancer. This option allows me to continue on the same medication I’ve been on since January of 2021. Anyone who knows about staying alive on cancer drugs knows that the longer you can make it on a drug, the better. My type of cancer is so rare that there are only a limited number of medications that I can take before my luck runs out. And believe me, I’m going to ride the wave of these miracle drugs for as long as I can!

I can still walk and hike and think and travel and take road trips and ride a bike and drink an occasional glass of wine and live a normal life. I’m very thankful that I had the option of surgery, and really, it wasn’t so bad. Yeah, I know you’re horrified, but for me, another scar is nothing compared to the alternative. I have a lot of stuff still to do in this lifetime!

Now, I have to wait until May to get scans and see if I’m back to the coveted NED (no evidence of disease), a hard won designation that I achieved after a year on this medication. Right now, I guess that cancer is a little ahead of me again in the fight for my right to live another day, another month, another year. But I’m not letting that stop me from making every moment count. I’ve tried not to miss a beat. I just wish I could take a bath again! That has been the biggest inconvenience.

Life rolls on!

I’ve officially been at this crazy game for three and a half years!

If you’re having a bad day and need some inspiration, here are a few pictures from my adventures since surgery. My next post will be about Southern Utah!!

Breaking news: After I finished writing this blog I woke up bleeding on a Sunday morning. My wound opened up during the night! The fun continues…


Author: barblee

Barb Lee is a native of Western Massachusetts who loves to write, travel and hike the world, and hang out with her beautiful Jersey Wooly bunny Muffin. Her whole life changed when she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in October of 2019. By January of 2020, she was bouncing back in a major way. Now, in addition to all her favorite activities, she wants to help others make the most of life following a devastating diagnosis, while she continues to beat the odds.

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