A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.
“What does the MRI show?” Mom asked.
It had been several days of anxiously awaiting the news following cessation of her chemotherapy two weeks ago and the MRI; which had been painfully long, just last week.
“Not much” replied Dr. Savage.
“The report indicates that there was nothing to measure. They can’t find it. Where your tumor had been there’s an area of inflammation, but no tumor and your blood work looks good. You’re not anemic anymore and your white cells are down into normal levels.”
With the CA119 numbers dropping in such a dramatic way during the course of chemotherapy treatment I’d asked Mom in the last few weeks to visualize her tumor shrinking into a grain of sand and then have it blow away.
I’d been doing it too, and praying to St. Raphael. (Despite not being Catholic or terribly religious, I do believe in the power of prayer and in the power of angels to intercede on our behalf when asked to do so.) Still… I think this news dumbfounded us both.
“I’ve never seen a patient with pancreatic cancer respond so favorably to treatment. To be honest, when we had to remove the chemo drug that you were allergic to I was not very optimistic at all. In most cases we will only get about 15% of the patients responding to chemo at all. It’s usually only a way to slow it from spreading. I’ve never seen this happen before.”
Dr. Savage seemed just as baffled by this turn of events as we were. We were all happy, albeit in a rather subdued way, but kind of unable to really show it for fear that might jinx it.
“So…is this considered remission?” I asked.
“Yep. We’ll stop chemotherapy and do blood work in about a month. We’ll monitor the numbers and go from there. If things still look good in six months, we may do another scan” she said.
And then she turned the page of her report to address another subject.
“There is this aneurysm thing…” Dr. Savage’s words sort of trailed off as she looked at Mom with a question mark seemingly hovering over her head. “It’s grown since the last scan. That’s not really my area, but I know you’ve had them for awhile.”
Some might freak out about having an aneurysm, let alone two of them that are quite large. However, this isn’t something that we are frightened by any longer as for the past six years doctors have scanned, measured and waited for Mom’s aortic aneurysms to grow, leak or rupture and require repair. Both considered ‘big’, but not big enough for insurance to pay for the surgeries to repair them.
The aneurysm issue has taken a backseat to cancer as of late, so to hear that one had grown seemed almost laughable on the heels of such good news about the “POOF” of the tumor in her pancreas.
Dr. Savage seemed concerned. “I’ve put in a call to Dr.Faught (Mom’s surgeon) to see if he wants to talk about putting in a stent to repair the lower one (at the renal level above the area where the arteries branch off into the legs). Considering how well you’re doing, we should really address this thing.”
We’ll wait and see. Prior to the chemotherapy rounds Dr.Faught had decided not to monitor her aneurysms any longer. Palliative care being the goal, with no thought that there might actually be healing involved.
Despite this news of the aneurysm growth and the thought that another procedure might be in the wings, as we left the doctor’s office all I could think was: This is a good day!
A miracle had occurred and we’d witnessed it. Something that doesn’t come along for most people under similar circumstances.
I felt tearfully happy, and incredibly humbled. Grateful for so many people who have prayed for Mom’s healing and the strength for our family to keep moving forward despite the sometimes crushing emotions.
I kept finding myself mumbling Thank You God on the drive all the way home. That and listening to iHeartRadio’s 80’s stations and wildly singing along word for word with every song that came on.
A good day indeed!