Exhaling after verifying the scan results

So the initial results were verified and guess what?  In a few days, my tumors went from being “about 30 percent less” to 46 percent shrinkage.  Pretty amazing, huh – 14 percent in one weekend!  At this rate, we’ll be cancer free before Labor Day! 

As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend”.  The tumors didn’t actually shrink any more, the measurement methodology for the study classified them differently than I had.  Merck takes the longest measurement of each of the five “target” (i.e. biggest) tumors and add those numbers together as the total target tumor size.  I went down from 26.1 cm to 14.0 cm; hence, the 46 percent regression. 

So with tumors shrunk nearly in half, how would you have spent a holiday weekend?  Make sure to include “get dose number five of potentially life-saving immunotherapy” on there somewhere (in my case, on July 3rd). Here’s what the Sharpes did to keep that smile on our faces.

We had a date night – dinner and drinks and a bit of casino action at the Seminole Hard Rock just a few miles southwest of here.  No kids for a night thanks to my in-laws, a room at the Hard Rock thanks to a friend, and a small contribution to the Seminole Tribe, who apparently aren’t very sympathetic to cancer patients at their blackjack tables (they torched us).  A normal getaway night for some; a complete change of pace for us. Check off “T.J. and Jen time” from the exhale list.

We had a pool day on the Fourth with a bunch of family and friends, followed by a non-cancer-diet dinner (I’m sure the blueberries in the pie were organic) and fireworks on the beach.  There were a dozen kids running around paying more attention to glow sticks than pyrotechnics. There were a bunch of friends all together enjoying the moment.  Check off “Family time with the kids” from the exhale list.

We had a boat day – seven boats tied together at a sandbar, and a bunch of us (sans children for the afternoon) floating around and hopping between vessels.  Drinks flowed, food grilled, music blared, everyone unwound, and at least one bathing suit top had trouble staying on correctly.  It was partly cloudy with a bit of a cool breeze; in other words, the perfect South Florida afternoon to be on, or in, the water.  Check off “Adult fun at the Sandbar” from the exhale list.  

Maybe if the scans had turned out differently, so, too, would have boat day.  Even if they hadn’t, there was still the chance I was sitting at home Thursday or Saturday – be it from side effects, too much fatigue, being abundantly cautious, or just wanting/needing to spend time focusing on cancer stuff.  Heck, I probably should have spent more time doing research this past weekend.  Like Jen pointed out in her blog post, cancer can kill in many ways, not just through tumors.  It can kill spirit, it can kill perspective, it can kill hope, it can kill life before actually taking it.  But only if you let it.

Not being able to see the forest through the trees would have planted me squarely in front of this computer on a beautiful South Florida day.  I would have missed a great time with great friends, whose absence in our lives during the Moffitt sabbatical was clearly a reminder of our good fortune to know them.  I would have lost an opportunity to enjoy the very life I am fighting to preserve.  It gave Jen the opportunity to have fun with the girls, without having to worry about me.  I gave myself an afternoon to loosen the reigns a bit and enjoy, at least in semi-moderation, the opportunities we have in Fort Lauderdale.  As I told one of my friends, while we sipped on a drink in waist-deep Intracoastal bathwater, “My health might not be perfect, but life is damn good”.

Between boat day and the Fourth, it was the first time I saw many of those friends down here, post-scans.  Needless to say, there were a lot of “Congratulations!” passed my way.  Heck, in an extended group of maybe 50 people across the flotilla, there were at least a dozen people I barely or didn’t know who came up to me and said something along the lines of “I’ve been following your blog…” or “I heard the good news…”  I know this won’t be a sprint, and the marathon of my journey is indeterminate in length.  For one lap around the track, though, it was tough to beat the last seven days. Good news, a side-effects-free dose of healing, a date night, and a couple of holiday weekend days with family and friends.  Kind of reminds you of all those reasons to keep battling on.  Life is still good.

T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »