By CARLA OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, April 8, 2019 — If you are watching your calendar and following my cancer journey, you’ve probably been thinking that my most recent “90-day scan” has come and gone. And you’d be right.
I had my regular 90-day scan and labwork done on March 15 and then met with my oncologist Dr. Matt Hill at John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines on March 19.
Overall, the report was favorable once again. I felt grateful, blessed, relieved.
The best news was that the intense radiation I had in January was successful, reducing a tumor in my right lung “significantly.” We were thrilled with this news. Other good news was that all other lung tumors, sclerosis within the L3 vertebral body, and a tumor on the right side of my diaphragm remain the same. This means that I have gone 180 days with very little growth in most places.
However, at my December scan, a new tumor revealed itself in my spleen. It has now doubled in size, to an inch in diameter. This is not good news.
But when I saw Dr. Hill after the latest scan, he already had a plan and we are moving forward with it. He had connected with Dr. Olaf Kaufman, an intervention radiologist, who successfully ablated two tumors in my abdomen in February 2017.
We met with Dr. Kaufman and discussed “microwaving” the tumor in my spleen. This process uses two long needles with heat being directed into the tumor, where it “literally cooks the tumor away” as Dr. Kaufman told us.
In 2017, he froze the tumors. The spleen is a bit more sensitive because of blood vessels around and in it, and “cooking” helps cauterize the area immediately to help prevent bleeding, which is the only small risk to this procedure. The alternative plan for my spleen, by the way, would be removal of it, and we want to avoid that if possible.
I will be having this done at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 10, at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. It is an outpatient procedure under sedation, and generally takes less than 10 minutes. If all goes as planned, I’ll be home for dinner. And then I’ll spend the next week taking it easy.
Carla Offenburger with physician assistant Casey Burch and Dr. Olaf Kaufman.
Both my husband Chuck and I feel good about the plan in place. And with spring in the air, I look forward to coming home and spending a few days on my front porch watching the tulips come up.
I have a new attitude that is allowing me to go into these scans and appointments with a very positive outlook. My mindset now is that I can’t ask for anything more than Dr. Hill telling me he has a plan in place.
This attitude will serve me well moving forward. I’ve had a lot of surgery and my abdomen is probably at its limit with a lot of incisions and scar tissue already. The goal is to avoid surgeries if possible. This means, of course, that it will be best if I don’t experience tumor growth that can’t be controlled through radiation or ablations.
I have to be realistic and come to terms with knowing that my body feels like it’s had enough. It seems like I am always tired and quick to need a nap. A long nap. I basically have chronic back pain. And I have trouble sleeping – because of my back or the never-ceasing thoughts in my head. But enough “woe is me.”
I can just as quickly get back to “Wait a minute, Carla, your life is blessed,” and go for a walk, work on my current quilting project, read a good book, hug my mom, Facetime with my granddaughters, plan a trip with Chuck. I am always grateful for all the good in my life.
We continue to be reminded by Dr. Hill that the nature of this adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is that it is very slow growing for the most part. And I have to remain positive and healthy so that I’m ready for whatever “plan” must be implemented.
The goal is always to give me many more years of good, fun, clean living. We continue to have faith in Dr. Hill’s general treatment plan – stay as healthy as possible and do treatment as necessary. We never stop looking or hoping that research will provide some cure for ACC, while I can still take advantage of it. Dr. Hill continues to follow research and studies as well.
Pray for continued plans that work – and healthy living in the meantime.
AND THEN THERE’S MY GARDENS. This past week when I’ve been trying to do some early work in my gardens as I anticipate another good gardening season, I’ve had to acknowledge that my energy is low and what once could be a full afternoon out in the yard, is down to a good hour at best. That’s depressing.
So, I have this idea — I’m going to throw a garden party!
If you are a gardening friend and feel so inclined, I could use your help. I’m thinking three hours with my sisters and a few friends could help me get my gardens ready, so that my perennials that are just “waking up” can feel the sun and cool breeze. And make me smile.
If you are willing and able, we’ll do that Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. until noon. Weather permitting of course. I’ll provide a mid-morning snack and a cold glass of lemonade. Bring your favorite gardening tools and I’ll have a list ready. I figure a half dozen of us can get my 10 or so gardens ready for the season. It will be more fun than work, I promise. Well, O.K., it will be a lot of work, too.
If you are interested, send me an email at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook.
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