Friday, October 25, 2013

Statistical Odds

10/25/13  What percentage (no pun intended) of your life involves odds and statistics?   When I walked into the living room the other day (October 14th, to be exact) my Dad was watching Sports Center.  The news caster was reporting on the amazing feat of the two Boston teams the day before: The New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox.   It was a different type of sports report in that the newscaster was giving a statistical percentage of a win at each highlight of the game.  New England was winning throughout the game but the Saints went ahead towards the end.  New England won with the last throw of the game, a 17 yard touchdown pass in the end-zone.  Then they flip to the come back of the Boston Red Sox who were behind 5 - 0 in their playoff game.  They score one run and the newscaster gives the statistical probability at that time of a win.  Then in the bottom of the 8th Ortiz hits a grand slam home run.  In any game a grand slam is absolutely exciting (I have had the privilege of witnessing one in a live game in 2010 with the San Diego Padres hitting one off of the Los Angeles Dodgers...SWEET!!!) but in a playoff game where the chance of winning is looking pretty dim a grand slam will light up any stadium.  So the Red Sox are now tied 5 - 5 with Detroit.  In the 9th they finish it off with a walk off run to win 6 - 5.  The newscaster then says: “0.2% chance of both professional ball teams in Boston to come back with a win yesterday. 0.2%.” 

I don’t share any of this because I’m a huge sports fan and love an exciting come back story (although I do).  Or because I’m a Boston fan and am elated for their wins (because I’m not).  I share this because today I was devastated.  I saw my medical oncologist.  I started the visit by saying I was not happy with my latest CA 125 #.  He said he was not happy with it either.  He explained that it is an early trend but the numbers do seem to be trending as if the cancer is growing again.  These were words I was quite aware of being shared at this visit, but they still hit with a very hard blow.  He went further to say that he would like to do another PET scan in 3 months, because once the numbers start trending up, it takes about 3 months to show evidence of the disease on a PET.  He even when further to talk about starting chemo again at some point.  All I wanted to do was yell shut up, run out of the room, and cry.  But I didn’t.  He recognized that he was aware that I didn’t want to think about starting chemo.  I asked if we would do the same chemo medications.  He said yes since they were very effective.  I looked puzzled at him since I don’t consider cancer growing again within 2 -3 months after chemo stopping, EFFECTIVE.  He said, “You’ve had a good few months.  I know you want more, but you have had some quality to your life since starting chemo.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful man and a wonderful doctor for me, BUT he has been trained to treat based on statistics and his own experience.  Obviously, he has a set way of seeing the course of this disease progress in a person.  And that path is extremely bleak.  I had only a 15% chance of being alive in 5 years after the 2nd diagnosis.  I don’t know what the number drops to with a 3rd diagnosis. 

I do know this... on a day where I felt extremely sad, defeated, cheated, and puzzled, the divine sent me a message through that sports cast.  I rarely hear sports casts that have odds given during the play by play of the game, in fact I don’t think I have ever heard a sports report like that.  And to hear it on a day where I experienced such a blow and to have those two teams beat the odds of a 0.2% chance of both winning.  I’ll take my 15% and run with it and feel it’s plenty sufficient.  More important I’ll believe the message was specifically for me, sent by the universe, to remind me to trust in the process and journey, and know that I am fine and will be fine with my divine guidance.  

I quote Mark Nepo from The Book of Awakening, “It seems our ability to be authentic and free can’t touch us until we breathe our way below the twitch of our patterning.  Often, this requires outlasting the anxiety of needing to catch or fix what comes our way, so we can truly respond from the center of our being.”  

I wrote most of this post the day it happened, but decided not to send it immediately.  As I reread it today I feel I’ve done what Mark Nepo describes, I’ve outlasted the anxiety, and can feel, from deep within, that I am fine.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself the past week visiting with my cousins out of state and feel especially upbeat, health, and happy.   I write this from my cousin’s house in Idaho, overlooking a lake with the beautiful reflections of the trees shining through the water and truly feel the I Am!  
Please think of me as this happy and healthy Denise during the coming week as I go for another blood test and an appointment with my surgical oncologist.  

Love, gratitude, and health to all of you and all the support you continue to pass my way.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is the Glass half full or half empty?


In what realm do you live your life?  Do you truly live in the reality, seeing things through practical, black and white eyes?  Or do you live more in the realm of intention, where you assume the state or situation that you dream to be in?  Maybe you live with both of these working for you at different times.  Over the past few years I’ve learned that I live more in the dream realm with believing things are what I want them to be rather than what they may actually be. 

Maybe it’s not at all the actual state that we are in, but in how we choose to view each day and event in our lives.  Unlike many, I’ve viewed cancer as a gift.  Maybe not a gift I want to keep on giving, but a gift nonetheless.  Recently, a friend made a comment of how my life has been a series of tragic events over the past few years and how sad she is for me.  It shocked me a bit to hear her say this, because I never really saw it that way.  Yes, some unfortunate things have happened, but I still feel I have a great life.  I don’t feel my life is great because of what happens or doesn’t happen in my life, BUT because of who I am and how I choose to handle what life events occur.  

I’ve had a couple of things recently test my Polly Anna view on things.  A member of our survivor group recently passed, after a 10 year struggle with ovarian cancer.  As a board member of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Central California, I attended an Ovarian Cancer celebration dinner the last week of September (September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month).  I didn’t know many of the women at the dinner and I quickly became aware that many in this group have had quite a struggle with the disease.  At least 5 of the 15 women at the dinner were “typical” ovarian cancer patients.  They don’t really talk of their first diagnosis or a recurrence, the way I do.  They speak of being in treatment on and off for the last 5 or so years.  One woman had been in treatment for the last 8 years and spoke about the chemo she was currently taking was the only one remaining that she had not used.  She said, “If this one does not work, that’s it.”  I quickly became panicked and wanted to leave, but I had rode there with someone else. 

By the time I reached home I was deep in fear mode.  I doubted my dreamy perspective and way of dealing with things.  I thought that maybe I should be looking at my situation more realistically, rather than always being quick to assume that I’ll be an outlier of the statistical odds.  As a Nurse Practitioner I know that what these women described is the most common course of the disease.  As a dreamer, I didn’t want to believe that it could happen to me.  I was truly rattled to my core and cried myself to sleep that night and woke up the next morning crying again.  

I’ve been put to the test again today on how I view my life and situation.  I have to admit that I’ve been living in fear all day which is why I’m choosing to write today.  My hope is that by writing out my thoughts and sharing with others, that I will change my perspective on how I’ve been thinking all day.  Please don’t excessively worry about what I’m sharing, because I know that if you contact me in the next 24-48 hours I will have already changed my perspective back to my Polly Anna approach and will be viewing today as just a tiny blip in the journey.  Today may actually be the reminder I need, NOT to live in the mode of fear, and simply BE! 

I have blood work done every 4 weeks to check my tumor markers.  This is a way for the oncologist to monitor if cancer cells are growing again.  It is not the most reliable of tests, in that many other conditions in the abdomen can elevate the number.  While I was in chemo, my numbers dropped lower than anything my oncologist had ever seen.  So I knew that after chemo the numbers would go up some, but there is no way to know how high they will increase before leveling off.  The level maintained in August at 4.  The number increased slightly in September to 8 and I hoped this would be where it leveled off.  This week’s number was 12.  With perspective, I realize this number is still very low but it has me rattled.  Part of the issue, is that I don’t have the experience of having the level checked and seeing fluctuations without any significance.  My only experience with fluctuations was the number increasing, starting the fall of 2011, which ultimately showed the cancer had recurred.  

I’m left to redirect my feelings on this matter, away from fear, and adjust my outlook to remember where I am at today.  I am alive, first and foremost.  I am enjoying life.  I am feeling well.  I am completely impassioned with what I envision for my future. I am ultimately grateful that the lab test is NOT showing a huge elevation.  I will continue to be faithful, to all that I do, that I believe is helping me to achieve a greater state of health.  I will, also, continue to write because I enjoy sharing with all of you and I am deeply interested in hearing how my thoughts help you to experience just how precious it is to live our lives together.  

Thank you for being in my life and interested in living to the fullest.  Here’s to being the ultimate optimist.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Inspiration, what is your source?

You never know how, why or when you may inspire someone.  I’ve been physically active my whole life.  At one time I even ran 2 marathons and did a sprint triathlon.  As far as I know, this did very little to inspire people to action.  It may have inspired them, but inspiring to the point of action is so much more.  Then comes 2010, when I get cancer.  During this time I regularly blogged about the importance, FOR ME, to somehow muster the courage to walk at least to the neighbor’s house and back.  I walked almost daily, regardless of how weak I was.  At times it took someone on both sides of me to help hold me up.  

Now, my cousin declares she is doing her first 5k (at the age of 42) because I inspired her to be physically active.  I am so happy for her and grateful for her doing it.  Yet, I laugh, that in my weakest, least physically active time in my life I’ve inspired someone else to be physically active.  

The gifts don’t usually come packaged as we would expect, right?  And, as most wonderful things in life, the serendipity here is that now that she notified me of signing up for the 5k, I feel more motivated to try to increase my physical activity.  Give and Take is so beautiful.  Thank you Melanie!!!!

If you feel like it, share what inspires you....

Dr. Oliver