Breathing, and radiation, and ice cream, oh my!

Here’s the thing about cancer. It’s unrelenting. It’s the type of thing that simply stays on your mind all the time, even when what you’re trying to do is think about only the good things in the world. Which means I spend a lot of time trying to create space in my brain for thinking about anything but that word “cancer.”

Sometimes that looks like making my first film (!!!) and having it screen in San Francisco; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, Oregon; and Gary, Indiana.

Sometimes it looks like watching way too many movies starring The Rock. (Did you know you can get the Icee of your dreams at the Emeryville AMC?)

Other times it looks like spending as much time as possible with Mac, making chit chat, eating ice cream, reading Harry Potter.

It can also look like playing Heads Up with whichever friends we’re lucky to be hanging out with.

All of these ways of taking breaks from the constant heaviness of cancer are becoming more and more important as Mac and I enter a new phase of cancer treatments. A phase where my health remains and becomes more and more precarious.

Eighteen months ago, it seemed like I had countless treatment options ahead of me; that number now is disappointingly finite. Eighteen months ago, I was walking three miles around Lake Merritt every day; yesterday I needed a wheelchair to get from the living room to the bathroom—an unexpected, and hopefully reversible change.

I had a period of time this summer where the combination of my uncontrolled pain (did I mention I have four fractures in my back?) and my difficulty breathing (did I mention I have lung metastases?) made it impossible for me to lay on my back long enough to receive the scans I need to see if the chemo I’m on is working.

Last Friday, after a few sessions with my physical and occupational therapists where I practiced breathing while laying flat on my back, I was able to lay for CT scans of my brain, chest, abdomen, and pelvis!

And … the results were … mixed.

The brain scan showed “innumerable” lesions throughout the brain. The best course of treatment for this is whole brain radiation, which is exactly as upsetting as it sounds.

The other scan results showed that my systemic disease is fairly stable, with some growth in my liver and ribs. Which is to say that the current chemo is working a little, but isn’t effective enough to stick with it.

So that’s where we are. I’ve decided to move forward with the whole brain radiation, which will start this afternoon. The full course of treatment will be five days, each day approximately ten minutes each. During the five sessions, they’ll also radiate the met in my right iris and the met in my left hip flexor.

Side effects of the radiation will include deep fatigue, permanent hair loss, skin irritation, and short-term memory loss. My big projects will be to manage my ability to breathe during the unforgiving circumstances of the radiation sessions, and then to bounce back enough that I can return to chemo (or immunotherapy) as soon as possible.

Thank you for reading this missive. I hope it helps you feel up to speed on where things are with Mac and me.

The love and support we receive from #TeamMittsAndMuffy is truly humbling. Thank you so much for reminding me that magic is real.

Of course, while I’m at it, I’d like to include a link to our fundraiser. Please help and/or share:

With love, solidarity, and ice cream,