Did we just “catch a break”?!? 😀
That’s the text that I received just minutes after I updated my Caring Bridge page a few weeks ago. It was from my good friend, college fraternity brother, turned 30 year business partner, Geoff Hyman.
Geoff had read my Caring Bridge post, where I shared that I had received some really great and surprising news, arising during my recent visit to MD Anderson. (You can see the complete Caring Bridge update at: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mikeshane2 )
Geoff’s text caught me off guard. I responded – “I think so…”
It’s from my ‘Mantra’, which I posted on my Caring Bridge site back in May (in photo below). I wrote my Mantra in the days following my diagnosis. It was my way of organizing my runaway emotions, accepting my situation and creating a framework for how I intended to maneuver through the challenge. This is the excerpt from my Mantra that Geoff was referring to: “I’m going to trust in the medical process and be infinitely resolved that I will catch a break through my treatment process.”
As I mentioned, the news we heard that day caught both Felice & I by surprise. It’s taken the last couple weeks to absorb. The ‘phenomenon’ my Doctor said I was the beneficiary of is called ‘The Abscopal Effect’. It is a freakishly rare biological effect that can occur when undergoing radiation therapy. In my case, the radiation appears to have done it’s work on the target, which was the very large mass on my liver and the abscopal response enabled my immune system to go fight the active lymph nodes. From the radiologist report, all of the remote activity appears to have been ‘resolved’.
‘The Abscopal Effect’ can’t be ‘created’ on purpose. The occurrences are so rare that it is difficult to locate those that have had it happen to them. A recent article published by the National Institute of Health stated that between 1969 and 2014 there have been 46 reported cases. I was blown away by that. I expect there are a lot of unreported cases, but regardless, 46 reported cases in 45 years. That’s rare. There are an increasing number of trials to prove the principle that combining immunotherapy and radiation therapy can create an abscopal response. Wikipedia uses the term ‘phenomenon’ in defining ‘The Abscopal Effect’ – when it happens to you, it’s a MIRACLE!
For now, it’s a waiting game. I’ll have blood work this coming week. Those results may or may not give us an indication as to whether I experienced (or continue to experience) a limited or robust abscopal response, at the least it will be a data point. Then we’ll go back to Houston for scans – most likely right after labor day. These scans should give us much more information.
Everybody says that cancer is one continuous roller coaster. We got shoved on to the roller coaster back in January and hit some lows pretty quickly, but now the coaster shot straight up. Obviously, I’d love to ride on up to the next level for a while. I can’t try and prepare or anticipate for a drop, I’m not wired that way. If or when the coaster drops, I’ll deal with that then. Felice prefers to wait on the sideline so that we can go ride on the comfy train together. I’m jumping on the coaster. It feels too good to dream of miraculous outcomes and have a vision of life without the shackles of perpetual treatment. While I feel this good and am able to be fully active again, full of energy; I want to take it all in and enjoy the feeling of being healthy again.
I have frequently visualized feeling healthy again, but not this quickly, so I’m just riding the coaster! Just a few weeks ago, we were preparing to enter a clinical trial that had the potential of creating a lot of unpleasant side effects, without any sense for whether it would work, or how long I would be in treatment. Today, I’m playing golf, taking walks, exercising and doing things with more energy and excitement than I could have imagined at this time. Felice and I use the word ‘bonus time’ any time we have had the kids home for any extended period. Now ‘bonus time’ has a new meaning to me. While I’ll be very disappointed if this ‘bonus time’ is brief, it’s still bonus time. It’s a reprieve that few, with my diagnosis have the opportunity to experience, it’s bonus time that I am blessed to be experiencing. For me, it’s a miracle…I don’t know what tomorrow brings, none of us do. I do know what it is like to lose your health, suddenly without warning. I know what it is like to face the fear that uncertainty brings, and I know what it is like to scurry to get things organized so that Felice and the family could manage our affairs if I ‘got hit by a bus’.
So yes I have an appreciation for what I once took for granted. Felice recently said, ‘I just don’t know how you’re at peace with all this’, referring to my overall sense & belief that my health is good. I told her that I understand, this has all just happened so fast, but I just have a feeling. Back in January, when my Doctor wanted to have me take more tests, I knew that there was something serious going and on. I just knew it. I hoped that I was wrong, but as the days passed, I knew. It’s the same way I feel now, I know things are going to be alright – at least for a while. That’s a hell of a lot better than where I was, so I have an inner calm about getting ‘bonus time’, no matter how long.
I now also know the power of all of the positivity that so many of you share. I know the power of your prayers and I have been given a new view of how wonderful people are. We have seen the true goodness in people. Friends have come out of the woodwork to support both Felice and I in the kindest of ways. It has shown us both a new vision of what it means to ‘be there’ for those in need. We continue to be so appreciative of all that you do and the genuine way that so many of you have wrapped your arms around us in hopes of providing us comfort.
So yes Geoff, we just caught a break!
Mike #ShaneStrong. # CancerSucks