By CARLA OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, July 18, 2018 — My life seems to keep getting better.
And I’m beginning to believe that it’s because I have cancer. Isn’t that odd?
It’s my perspective, of course.
I hope all those I know and love don’t have to get a cancer diagnosis to appreciate all they have. And that they keep a good perspective on how good their lives are.
Yes, I still have cancer, for those who are following my journey. I actually have a little bit more of it than I had last time that I shared an update with you. Darn it.
You may remember that on March 2, I received “miracle news” that none of my nine or so cancerous tumors had grown. Those tumors are in my lungs, liver and pelvic area. That was a wonderful appointment with Dr. Matt Hill in Des Moines, and right after we left him, Chuck and I started a two-week driving vacation out West.
We focused on that joyful news for the next 90 days. The magic days between scans sometimes have me forgetting I have cancer. I simply sink back into a wonderful life of routine – working, reading, gardening, quilting, bicycling, walking and plenty of family time. I like that.
Carla and granddaughter Audrey Offenburger, 3, frolicking on July 15 in the water park in Guthrie Center, Iowa.
Then at other times, we find ourselves living “like there’s no tomorrow.” Our trip out West was like that. We had a wonderful trip visiting family and friends, watching Chuck’s alma mater Vanderbilt play baseball in California, doing some fun bicycling and seeing a whole lot of our country, including a fabulous visit to Zion National Park.
Then in early May, we visited son Andrew and Maria Offenburger in Oxford, Ohio, for 7-year-old Casey’s first communion.
Since then, we’ve been embracing adventures right in front of us while sitting on our front porch on near perfect evenings. I planned and planted more flowers than ever, decreased the vegetable gardening and joined a local CSA.
On Friday, May 31, I had my next 90-day scan. And it was the following Tuesday that I found out miracles can be short-lived when you have cancer.
Dr. Hill had to report that all of my tumors showed a “slight progression.” Some grew more than others. The tumors in my lungs are smaller than a finger nail. The ones in my liver are slightly larger than that. It’s the one in my pelvic area that is about two inches in diameter. This is the one that will eventually cause some discomfort. More good news was that no new tumor growth was detected.
Our conversations with Dr. Hill are always frank and honest. He knows our perspective on life and always keeps that in mind.
Carla with granddaughters (from left) Lindsay, 11, Casey, 7, and Audrey, 3, during one of their “Master Chef Junior” cooking escapades — this time for brunch — on July 15.
And yet, we had to start talking about what was next.
We still feel that my quality of life supersedes a treatment that we all understand is suspect as far as being successful. Why would that be? Because every treatment with my rare cancer is somewhat of a “trial.” There are a lot of chemotherapies out there, but none designed specifically for adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC). Removal of tumors is still the main protocol. Other plans, which Dr. Hill has in mind, will most likely make me sick, with slim to no guarantees for total remission. And most likely result in heavy chemo with side effects that will impede my quality of life.
People live years with my cancer. I read it and see it all the time on the International ACC Foundation site I follow. I read about periodic treatments of all kinds depending on where the cancer is located. Every case is so very unique. It’s invigorating, hopeful and often frustrating.
We ultimately signed up for another 90 days, with plans for a scan in early September.
In the meantime, Dr. Hill consulted with Dr. Olaf Kaufman about doing another long-needle ablation to get rid of the 2-inch pelvic tumor. Dr. Kaufman successfully did a procedure like that on Valentine’s Day, 2017, for three other tumors. We were happy with those results. This seemed like the logical thing to do again, if possible.
Alas, Dr. Kaufman and Dr. Hill ultimately determined that the 2-inch tumor was too large for an ablation, so I’m now scheduled to see a gynecology oncologist today, July 18, about the possibility of surgically removing this tumor sometime soon. It would be my fourth major surgery in eight years.
While I know the routine of what to expect with such a surgery and how to be positive, it’s still draining emotionally. And sometimes physically.
Carla with Alicia Coceres Ojeda, the mother of our daughter-in-law, visiting from Corrientes, Argentina, and Carla’s mother Sue Burt, who now lives with us at our Simple Serenity Farm near Cooper.
So how is that I think my life keeps getting better with news like this?
First of all, nine years with a rare cancer that seems to invade my body at will is pretty darned good. I’m working for another 18 or more. One 90-day scan at a time.
And in the meantime, my focus seems to be on “making memories” – not for me necessarily, but for those I love.
More activity, more photos, more love to share. I find myself asking, what do others need for happiness, for joy, for a good life? Is it my time, my talent, my treasure? I want to give, give, give.
It’s not about me! I wish I would have been living my whole life with this perspective.
I take things very much less seriously. That “deer in the headlights” look you might see from me now and then translates into, “What does that matter?” or, “Is that the best you can do?” or, “Why are you worrying about that, exactly?”
So after a slight dose of “ugh” news in my cancer dance, we will get back to making memories.
We are beginning to work on another big trip this fall. Most likely out East – New York, Boston and New England. It won’t be hard to make that fun.
But honestly, all of this is often exhausting too – mentally, emotionally and physically. I go to bed nearly every night exhausted but always with much gratitude. My prayers are full of thanksgiving – that I was able to live another full day, even it that only included a routine day at work. I pray for, by name, all those I know who are suffering too. My journey is only one with so many others.
If all my wishes were granted, I wouldn’t have cancer, of course. But, I do. And, as I’ve said before, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to live with it. And I’m going to make the best out of – with those I love, making memories over and over and over again.
You can write the columnist by email at carla@Offenburger.com or comment by using the handy for below here.