The Big C
If a picture is worth a thousand words, on Monday I very naively and without much forethought posted a picture that said one word to most people: Chemo. I posted a photo of a needle in my arm. In that photo, I wasn’t receiving chemotherapy, but was, in fact, simply having my blood drawn. My blood went from my vein into refrigeration, onto a plane and over to Greece, where it now sits in a lab with a molecular geneticist. This scientist will isolate the cancer cells and count them, giving me a clearer picture of how much cancer I have in my body. He will test my blood for other blood cancers, leukemia and the like. He also will test my tumor cells against a suite of chemotherapy drugs to see which drugs will kill my particular cancer most efficiently. These cells also will be tested against natural substances and extracts, approximately 40 of them, to see which of those effectively kill my cancer. These tests will lead to a customized cancer treatment, which makes me kinda feel like my cancer is special. (Not really.)
In a few weeks, I’m also going to do some tests to find out what foods I should be eating, what works best to build my immune system, etc. There are other treatments that I will go through, one of which involves stem cells and blood transfusions, and such. This is all way above my head, but it’s all stuff that has taken over my mind these past two weeks. Several people have written notes, sent messages, called, and stopped by the farm. These visits and missives are wonderful, and lots of folks have questions. I’ll try to answer some of them here.
The one question everyone asks: “What stage?”
I interpret this question a little as: “When might you die?” (That’s a joke.)
The answer to that question: I don’t know. See above regarding the testing of my blood. I’m also going to have body scans done in coming weeks to see how far the cancer has spread. I have cancer, regardless of what stage. I need to get well. I have to educate myself. I have to research this stuff. I have to give it my all.
So here’s where we are. Approximately two months ago, for reasons I can’t explain, I was working on my laptop, sitting in this chair that I’m sitting in now, and I reached over and felt my breast. Way over. Sort of in a No Man’s Land near my armpit. I don’t know why I did that, but my fingers went right to a spot, to a knot. For about 24 hours, I quietly freaked out. Then I told Randy. I went to my doctor; she gave me a breast exam, and, in her normal routine, she didn’t feel it. She asked me what I’d felt. I pointed her to it, at which point she felt it, too. I was scheduled for a mammogram of the 3-D sort. I waited a week or so. Then went to get that. The mammogram missed it. The lump didn’t show up. I also got an ultrasound that day. Then they did a second ultrasound. The lump showed up. I was then scheduled to meet a breast specialist at a cancer center. I waited a week or so for that appointment. We met with her. She quickly reassured us, explaining that she wasn’t concerned by what she saw in the ultrasound images. The lump was perfectly shaped, like an oval. It didn’t have the color she would normally expect from cancer. She suggested we watch it and wait. I insisted we take it out and test it. We did that, and we waited some more.
Now I know. I have cancer. I don’t know much more than that. The lab results say my cancer is not super aggressive. It was fairly small when we found it, about the size of a blueberry. Regardless of size, regardless of stage, it was there, chiding me for not keeping up my healthy eating, juicing, and vitamin habits of several years ago. I’ve learned this much in the past two weeks: Prevention is way easier than trying to reverse something. Hindsight is a bitch. I’m now completely revamping my lifestyle and eating habits. That's carrot juice in the thumbnail photo for this blog. Randy is my juice master.
My brother set up a Gofundme account for me, which embarrasses me, quite honestly, but he did so because he wanted to find some way to help. He knows the kinds of treatments that I’m seeking aren’t covered by insurance. I will likely be paying $30 to $40K out of pocket when all is said and done. This is ok, if I can get my life back. I began this year thinking I would use my existing 401k to pay for developments on our farm. I wanted to have fencing installed. We did that. We wanted a larger building on our property, which would house an event space, a commercial kitchen, and a larger store. I was going to use the 401k to fund that. Now, I’m going to use what’s left of it to fund my life. What the 401k doesn’t cover, we will figure out. Randy has been my rock. With him on my side, I feel like I can accomplish anything. And that goes for you all, too.
I’m floored by the love and support we’ve seen thus far. If you donated to the cause, I thank you. If you’ve sent notes, cards, texts, and words of encouragement, please know that those sentiments touch me deeply. I’m humbled by this experience, and your kindnesses both inspire and encourage me to figure this out, to get better, to live well.
Lastly (and always), I invite anyone reading this to visit us on the weekends at the farm store. Hours and directions are on the website at www.duggerfamilyfarm.com. We would love to see you.