Hello lovelies! I hope you’ve been having a great fall!
Forgive me for my absence as I’ve tried to find the words to write here. I waffled about sharing this news but decided to do so with the hope that my story might help someone else going through a similar time.
This blog has always been a lighthearted place for me to chat with you about home improvement projects and design ideas, and I’ve adored getting to know so many of you wonderful readers and bloggers who share my love of house and home. In the near decade I’ve been blogging, this little slice of the internet has gone from being a fun hobby to an actual way for me to make a small income doing what I love; our kids have gone from elementary school to college, and I’ve shared many of our family shenanigans along with the evolution of our fixer upper through the years.
I know many of you who read here regularly care about me and my little family, so I thought it was time I updated you with what’s been going on in our world. In a nutshell, the first week of September right after Peter and Hannah went back to college, on the day Sean started his senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer that has metastasized to my brain and bones.
I know – it’s crazy. Lung cancer was not even remotely on my radar! At 48 I’m a life long non-smoker with no family history of lung cancer. I take care of my health, eat well, workout (occasionally 🙂 ), have annual mammograms, routine dermatological checks, bi-annual dentist appointments. A year ago I could maneuver a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood off the pile, into my cart and then into my car solo (ever tried it? Heave ho!), could carry tons of lumber on my own, move large stones, and yield heavy tools without a thought. I was never a runner or loved the gym but if you asked Mark to describe me from a fitness perspective he would likely say something along the lines of STRONG and HARDY.
I had barely any symptoms besides a persistent small cough, until shortness of breath worked it’s way into my life this summer. Long story short, a mass identified on a CT scan led to two surgical biopsy procedures and the diagnosis of an unfathomable, inoperable, incurable cancer.
The last couple months have been an absolute whirlwind of CT and PET scans, MRIs, blood work, hours upon hours spent in traffic to and from the hospital, ups and downs, sleepless nights, kindness, pain, anxiety, humor, love. We’ve learned many vocabulary terms and had an in-depth education that I wish we never knew. And we found some hope along the way.
THE GOOD NEWS | ALK +
Within a day of my diagnosis gene testing had been done and we found out that my cancer is something called ALK+. This means I have a rare genetic mutation of a gene we all are born with, and this mutation caused the cancer to develop. The reason this is GOOD news is that amazing research has yielded drugs that treat my specific cancer with success. While my cancer will never be cured, the drugs I am on will fight back against it and buy me some time – hopefully many years!
These drugs are known as targeted therapy drugs, and while they are under the umbrella of chemotherapy, unlike traditional chemo that attacks all the cells in a body, these drugs attack just the cancer cells. The drugs are administered in pill form (sometimes referred to as oral chemo); I can take them from home, with visits to the hospital just once a week for check ups. As opposed to traditional chemo or radiation, the drugs I’m on right now are not quite as harsh. So far my side affects have been tolerable and most of them have subsided.
I’ve been on these drugs for eight weeks and my latest round of brain and body scans shows that the cancer is receding!
I was diagnosed at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a research hospital that is on the cutting edge of new treatments for many cancers, and have since come to find out that this hospital is known as one of the major think tanks for my specific kind of cancer! I am so lucky to live in the Boston area and have access to some of the finest healthcare in the world! I have an amazing cancer team that I’ve gotten to know quite well these last couple of months and have had such incredible care through them.
We’ve also had an unbelievable support around us since the very beginning and Mark, the kids and I are all extremely grateful for that. Our house is clean and there is food in our fridge constantly thanks to so many angels who have taken care of us. We’ve heard from friends we haven’t talked to in years and have prayers being said for us all over the world from Australia to Medjugorje to Lourdes to Ireland and back again to Boston. The love and kindness we have been shown has truly brightened this dark and scary time and has made SUCH a difference to us!
We are optimistic that my targeted therapy drugs will continue to work for a long time to come and when the cancer grows resistant to them we’ll try something else. In the meantime today is a beautiful day – I’m planning to enjoy it and hope you are too!
And don’t worry – this blog is not going to turn into a health journal! It’s time to get back to doing what I love and that includes my compound miter saw and a pile of moulding that is awaiting me in the garage!!
Thanks for coming along for the ride for my home improvement antics and for all the twists and turns life takes. I adore this community and am thankful you’re here!
Lots of love,