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Mixed gladness and sorrow

September 5, 2014

The post-chemo CT scan was not what we had hoped for, yet it was not a total disappointment. The same three small tumors that were visible after my surgery in March are still there; but the good news is that they have shrunk by 50%. The largest is just over half an inch across; the two smaller ones are the size of peas. And yet, the bad news is that they are still there, because it means they are probably still viable and active rather than dried-up shells. And because the tumors are still there, it suggests that my cancer is largely resistant to the drugs.

My particular kind of cancer is extremely rare and represents less than two percent of all ovarian cancers. In general, it’s fast-growing, and there’s very little research being done because so few women fall ill with it. Its acronym, Mixed Mullerian Tumor or MMT, is usually prefaced by another “m” word: “malignant.” (It’s also called ovarian carcinosarcoma.) I first noticed symptoms in early January and was fading fast by March, when they surgically removed two large masses. I felt much better immediately, and sailed through the chemo with very few side effects while continuing to work at my job.

Whenever these three small tumors decide to reactivate, I  will probably only have a couple of months left before I start to die for the second time. My oncologist at the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis told me that it would make little difference if we were to take the tumors out now, as opposed to waiting for symptoms to return. The fact that there is so little research being done is frustrating, because there are few persons or institutions capable of providing a second opinion. From what I can tell from my Internet research, there is virtually nothing I can do to extend my life. My oncologist advised me to go forth and seize the day (that is, the days that still remain). My own online searches for MMT cancer invariably turn up my own blogs on the subject. (Thanks, Google.)

There is a choice to be made here. Do I want to struggle like mad to extend my own life by any means possible, spending money traveling to distant clinics to speak with experts, even though most likely I will fail in the end, filled with frustration, rage and panic? Or do I continue my quiet acceptance of my fate as a mortal being? After all, I’ve come to a good place in my life, a place where I have achieved all of my major hopes and ambitions. And all of us have known from childhood that we must die at the end. Even if it were feasible, I would have no interest in having my consciousness downloaded into a computer chip. I would not want consciousness under those limited conditions: an existence in which I could never walk again in the woods, inhaling the aroma of pine trees while birds sing.

For now, I embrace the facts of life — and death. This may change if I become more ill down the road, but for now I intend to accept my lot. After all, an important part of growing up is to learn to gracefully accept to play whatever cards we are dealt, instead of making a scene and complaining. I plan to relax with my family and friends, and yesterday I gave notice at my job, effective the end of November. I have projects I would like to complete, and travels to make. Life is a beautiful, complex, challenging, wonderful thing, and I wish to enjoy it fully in the time that remains.

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21 Comments
  1. Carrol—

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire the way you are playing the cards you were dealt. You are an inspiration to everyone who must cope with a health crises of a similar nature. Quality beats quantity in my book every time.

    Randi Richardson

  2. imagesbyrox permalink

    Well, let’s dance ’till the music’s over, then rest. Your light will never fade, but instead, will always offer illumination for those of us who know you! “We all are but a moments sunlight, fading in the grass…” (Youngbloods, “Get Together”) … had to throw that one in there. Love ya, girl!

  3. imagesbyrox permalink

    sorry that was a bit much. Wish I could edit my comment! Hugs, Carrol.

  4. Thank you for this blog entry. It is good to know what is happening now, and I will continue to look to see how each day is going.

  5. I’m very sorry to hear about your bad news. I’m glad that you’re going to do what matters most to you and enjoy the rest of your life though.

    Thank you for writing about this tough subject. While it doesn’t make me happy to hear about what you’re going through, I do appreciate hearing your perspective. My grandma is dying of cancer. Like yours, a type of sarcoma, although hers is a chordoma.

    While I didn’t start following your blog for the cancer posts, I will enjoy reading whatever posts you still feel like writing. Thanks for writing such a compelling blog. Your posts (no matter the topic) have touched me, and as it seems from the comments, others as well. Best of luck on your journey ahead. I’m rooting for you.

  6. KevinA permalink

    imagesbyrox, I don’t know how that will read to Carrol, but I thought it was wonderful. I can’t muster anything like this sort of equanimity, I *hate* this thing she is going through with such… calmness. (I love the calmness, hate the f*&ing cancer.)

    Carrol, we don’t know each other except from far distance. You are wonderful. Please beat this thing and stay here a long time, but, by all means, please enjoy every minute you can doing and experiencing things you choose, with people you love and who love you.

    Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing what you have done. Thank you for writing these things down. Know that you are loved by many.

    • Thank you so much for your message! I am so touched and moved by the support that you and others are giving me right now. It is immensely uplifting.
      🙂
      Carrol

  7. Rachel Perry permalink

    Carrol, I think of you frequently and ask Weaver for news. He finally sent this blog address. You’re a person I’ll always admire for your straight-forward approach to life (and death). Thanks for your clear writing and brave example.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Rachel! I appreciate it very much.
      🙂
      Carrol

      • Tom Gallagher permalink

        Thank you Carol. Your approach to your situation is nothing but inspirational. You teach, I learn. Miracles do happen, and if anyone can…………’
        Thank you again.

        Tom

      • Thank you, Tom! I am grateful for your support.
        🙂
        Carrol

  8. Jon Hecker permalink

    Thank you, Carrol, for your tenacity, courage and truth. I love your perspective and bestow good blessings upon you and your family.

    • Thank you, Jon! And may good blessings rain down upon you and your household as well.
      all my very best,
      Carrol

  9. Chris Sturbaum permalink

    I prayed for you today.

  10. Thank you, Chris, I send hugs and good wishes to you.
    🙂

  11. Alice Wolfson permalink

    Will really miss your work for the H-T as I always look forward to it. You’re such a talented writer and I love the details you speak of in your various articles.

    Sorry to hear the dismal news and I really admire the way you’ve handled the entire thing. I think your decision to relax and enjoy whatever time you have left is a good one.

    I really hope there will be a miracle for you….

    • Thanks, Alice! Words of gloom and doom being said, I feel absolutely great. I haven’t felt such energy or high spirits in a long, long time. So maybe I can fend this thing off longer than the prognosticators believe I can, simply because I’m in such (comparatively) excellent condition compared with many who have this disease.
      🙂
      Carrol

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