Que Syrah Syrah 

Que Syrah Syrah, whatever will be will be, the future’s not up to me, so I sip Syrah, so I sip Syrah.

Santa brought little Jimmy a new T-shirt and a new Oregon Ducks watch!

As we approach the end of the holiday season, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.  This year was a rather eventful year for us, with both good and bad events.  One of the good events is that the doctors finally discovered why I was having unintended weight loss. Unfortunately the reason for the weight loss, Stage IV Colon Cancer, was not the best news of the year.  After the initial shock filled with “I’m going to die” thoughts, I focused on living.  Focusing on the quality of life, living for the moment, and not worrying about longevity is very liberating.  I am liberated from fear and worry.  I don’t ignore my future.  I still focus and plan my cancer treatment,but I don’t worry about CT scans or PET scans.  If it’s good news, we celebrate.  If it’s bad news, we evaluate options and move on.   I also plan for vacations and my budding artist career😄.  I have a future, one tempered with great uncertainty, but a future nonetheless. My goal for 2016 is to continue to live life to it’s fullest.

I want to thank you, dear reader, for helping me realize my goal in this stressful year.  Your love and support cannot be overstated in it’s benefit for Lee and I.  And don’t get me started on all those yummy baked goods.  Cookies, cake, bread, biscotti and pie….Oh My!!!  After my surgery in April I left the hospital tipping the scales at 148 lbs, today I weighed in at 183.  Pat yourselves on the back, job well done!

With the current medical practices, my Stage IV cancer cannot be cured.  Average life span after diagnosis  is under two years, only 8% make it to five years. But there are new treatments on the horizon. One of them is immunotherapy.  Since cancer consists of mutant cells from within the body, our immune system does not consider cancer a threat and ignores it. Immunotherapy changes that and unleashes the immune system to attack the cancer cells. Ninety year old Jimmy Carter used immunotherapy to eradicate malignant lesions within his brain in only two months. This therapy is in its early stages of development for colon cancer, but if I can hang around long enough I might be able to use this therapy too. A good immunotherapy omen presented itself to us last week.  Lee sold a painting on her Etsy site (www.etsy.com/shop/AsbellArtStudio ) and the purchaser requested to pick up the painting.  When he arrived we discovered that he was a grad student at the Universty of Arizona doing reasearch in immunotherapy.  The painting was to be a gift for his mentor who was leaving to continue research in Europe, he was also leaving to continue his research. He was very positive about the future of immunotherapy for colon cancer. I take this as a good omen.

Lee’s “omen” painting

Along with enjoying festive activities with friends and family over the holiday season, I had the “pedal to the metal” creating Christmas presents.  I felt like an elf in Santa’s workshop doing paintings of loved cats and dogs…and one giraffe.  What fun, creating happy loving images that will one day be happy memories.  Below is my Christmas menagerie for your viewing pleasure.  Happy New Year!!

Palmer

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Below Normal!!

Usually when someone tells me that my test results are below normal I am very disappointed.  However this afternoon I met with Dr. P and he informed that my carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level was BELOW the threshold of normal and I am thrilled!  The CEA is a marker of cancer activity.  The normal level for CEA is 3.5 or below.  Yesterday my test result was a mere 3.1!!!!  

That does not mean that I’m cured or cancer free, but it is a strong indicator the chemo is working. Since I was off chemo for a month, I anticipated that my CEA number would be a bit elevated on this test. So it was a very happy surprise.  Dr. P told me that this indicates that the chemo has significantly damaged the tumors and, even though there was a pause in treatment, the cancer hasn’t recovered yet from the damage inflicted.  Kind of like when Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny “The Bear”  Liston, he wasn’t dead….but he wasn’t movin for a while.  Likewise, my chemo is kickin’ the crap out of the cancer, but the fight ain’t over.  I’ll have six more weeks of the current treatment, then a CT scan and then decide the next step.  But for now I’m living the good life and lovin’ it!

 

Last night we celebrated with the wine taster’s holiday Champagne tasting., toasting today’s news!
 
 
This morning’s sunrise greeted me a beautful sign of good fortune.
 

Back At It

My last chemo session was October 28. Today I was back at it.  It’s been an absolutely marvelous break. I’d almost forgotten how much of a annoyance the 3 hour chemo session followed by a 46 hour portable pump infusion is.  It had become a normal part of life, like taking out the garbage!  Not particularly pleasant, but just part of life’s little activities.  Fortunately I have the distraction of nice jazz from my iPhone and very pleasant Chemo nurses to alleviate the unpleasantness of the session. But that pump…well just deal with it Asbell….it’s only  2 days. Isn’t amazing how quickly we adapt to a “new normal.”

The reason for my break was a combination of Thanksgiving holiday closures and the slight possibility of a new very aggressive tumor in my left lung.  A CT scan revealed a very small new growth and the PET scan only a week later showed that it had doubled in size.  Yikes!!  It would be highly unusual for colon cancer tumor to grow that fast. Dr. P suspected pneumonia and gave me antibiotics to  deal with it. But while I’m fighting pneumonia it would be counterproductive to weaken my immune system with chemo therapy. I would have had chemo last week, but the holiday closure Thursday and Friday pushed it back to today.  So Jimmy had a nice chemo holiday. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family, showed my work at an art and craft fair, did a lot of commissioned pet portraits (with more in the works) and celebrated the end of  wine crush at a Beaujolais Nouveau tasting.🍷  

But back to the here and now.  The plan is to resume the chemo for two months (4 sessions) and then evaluate and choose the next course. Next week I’ll have the CEA blood work done, which will give an indication of tumor activity, and a meeting with Dr. P.  In about 7 or 8 weeks I’ll have another PET scan. But for now, to business  as it was May-October, sprinkled with holiday festivities, a Duck bowl game, and NFL playoffs to distract me.

Lee and I celebrate the 2015 Beaujolais crush with our wine tasting group, cheers!