“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – II Corinthians 4:8-9
This passage captures for me what has been a very challenging month. If you remember, I left you last trying to find a new way to battle the cancer that is threatening to overtake my body. Bumped from the Prostvac trial due to having been on chemo, I had hoped that a treatment called Provenge would be of help. This treatment involves removing white blood cells from my body, shipping them to a laboratory in Atlanta to supercharge them to fight my cancer better, then returning them to Tallahassee and to my body (that last step is key, I believe). It is a promising treatment, but it takes time to gain results. Apparently, time I do not have.
I had a nuclear bone scan as well as CT scans done recently. The bone scan (showing how much cancer is on my bones after my Xofigo treatment) was very encouraging. Here is a before and after comparison for you:
< Before Xofigo After Xofigo >
I’ve always tried to be transparent with you and this is further proof! I hope you can see that Xofigo has done an amazing job of getting the cancer off of my skeletal system. I continue to have minimal to no bone pain – a miracle with metastatic cancer on my bones. My body (and I) are so grateful for these last six months of pain-free living. The challenge, though, came with the CT scan. It shows my cancer most likely spreading to other parts of my body. That, along with a rapidly rising PSA, new (different) pain and increased fatigue, spells trouble.
How to fight back? Even without Provenge, the good news is we have options – a growing number from even a year ago. The challenge is we do not know which option would work best for me. Chemo is always out there, smiling at me seductively, inviting me back again. But it wasn’t hard to say no to her this time. Instead, we are going with a drug called Xtandi. The bottle you see below is $7,450 for a month’s supply – thank you Capital Health Plan for covering this for me!
Ignore the “Chemotherapy Drug” statement on the bag. It is not true. Please God, do not let it be true. Xtandi is designed to slow down the growth of my cancer by, instead, further suppressing the male hormones in my body. Did I say, “further suppress”? Is that even medically possible? Apparently so, as I shake my head in dismay. Will it work? We won’t know until I’ve been on it for a month or two. The exciting part is that it comes with the potential for some interesting side effects, including suddenly becoming a blithering idiot and driving to far away states for no apparent reason. I will start Xtandi tomorrow, so if you see me in North Dakota please bring me home.
Let’s be frank, shall we? What I have been doing for the last year is dodging death, and this last month opens up a new front in the battle. But so far, so good. I am still alive and kicking! A friend told me that I have almost died so many times (near drowning, 12,000 volt electrocution, almost 50 years of insulin injections, setting myself on fire (don’t ask), a tree falling on me, etc), that cancer couldn’t kill me either. He thinks it will be space junk reentering the atmosphere that takes me out. Comforting.
How am I feeling about this latest news? Am I ever afraid? Every day. Angry, too. I have a lot of reasons to not die anytime soon. None of this makes sense, but life seldom does. Courage is required. Great courage. And even more important – faith. God may choose to do another “Xofigo miracle” for me. So don’t count me out yet. But even if He doesn’t, I still believe He has a better plan for me than I do for myself. Call me crazy, but I would rather trust Him, not me.
I understand that how we live our lives matter. Facing death with courage matters. Fighting back, no matter what the odds, matters. With your support and prayers, I will continue to fight this thing, even as we open a new front in this war. Cancer wants my body, but I will NEVER give it my heart. Time to man up for another round and fight this damn thing. If I go down, I want to be shooting back. I want my cancer to say, “Who is this guy?” And I want the answer to be, “A man who is trusting Someone greater than himself.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
We are way beyond clichés and platitudes here, folks. If you have an easy answer to all this, I’m not interested. I am so glad the Apostle Paul also faced difficulties in life that were beyond his ability to endure; that brought him to the point of despairing of life itself. It takes courage to admit you are up against something that feels like the sentence of death. His example of engaging God with the full brunt of his emotions and pain is freeing. It liberates me to be a human being. From there it calls me to a crazy faith that says the proper response to suffering is not to be stoic or a victim, but rather to forsake self-reliance altogether. In this battle, my trust is in the God who can do anything – including raising the dead.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” – II Corinthians 1:8-9
This is what I am learning: to find the courage to fight this battle, I must rely upon the strength of the One who has already suffered all things on my behalf and whose purposes for me are always loving and good.
To my friend who asked if I was ever afraid:
“Courage is being scared to death . . . . and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne