Maybe I’m getting used to warmer weather over the years. In any case, this winter has been the coldest I can remember in Maryland. Today the low was (ostensibly) 8 F. That’s crazy for this area and I can’t recall it getting that cold in the 11 years we’ve been here. It all fits with our theme this year though. Rachel, Becca and I have just finished Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Long Winter” (I am grateful we live here and not in North Dakota where the blinding and hazardous blizzards attack on a regular basis) and that just about sums it up. Spring, when it arrives, will be most welcome.
The long, dark and cold evenings have given us the opportunity to catch up on some good movies. One recommendation is a made-for-TV movie on the development of Herceptin (one of the few drugs I am now on). It has Harry Connick Jr. (of all people) playing the part of Dr. Dennis Slamon who developed the drug. “Living Proof” is at times a bit hokey but it provides some good insight into how differently Herceptin works from other cancer drugs and the complexities of funding radically new types of drugs. Rather than attacking the cancer outright, the drug ”fits” into the HER2/neu receptor and prevents the cancer cells from binding with the receptor and replicating in the uncontrolled way that cancer does. For anyone going through breast cancer, it is a fascinating glimpse into one of the most successful drugs currently in use for dealing with it.
Getting back to my cancer (or lack thereof), there is one new diagnostic result worth noting. While my November update suggested that the cancer was all gone, one unexpected twist in that diagnosis became clear earlier this month. A brain MRI (which is required to see the brain, which the CT and PET scans can’t) in late December indicated that the right-had brain tumor which had previously dimished to half its orginial size is still present. We have been wondering what this portends and were finally able to go back to the radiolost for her assessment. My oncologist had expected the tumor to disappear as the left one had following stereotactic radiation in September and seemed genuinely concerned. Interestingly, the radiologist was very positive, stating that sometimes, scarring can occur that looks like the tumor remains. The fact that this remaining “tumor” (or scar) has not grown, did not uptake the contrast agent and has not resulted in swelling in the brain seem to suggest that it’s really just a scar. We’ll see how future MRIs in the coming 3 and 6 months look as these should give a clue as to whether it is dead or alive. My brain sounds like the backdrop for some schmaltzy western. Given the tough fight this has been, a battle scar or two seem almost appropriate. Too bad they aren’t in a place I can show them off!
Speaking of battle, in December while my mother was here, we visited Abraham Lincoln’s summer cottage in the Soldier’s Home compound along North Capitol Street, which runs straight North of the U.S. Capitol building. The summer cottage is open year around and has an impressive group of young docents who lead guests through the recently updated cottage. It’s a pretty spectacular tour. The result is that I’ve dived deeply into the Civil War and am reading “Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier’s Home” along with having watched the entirety of “Gettysburg” and two PBS specials on Grant and Lee over the last few weeks. There is more reading to do, but the brutality of the Civil War certainly puts the difficulties of the Middle East, Afganistan and North Korea all in perspective. It’s not like we’ve only known a peaceful existence in the US. The Civil War really isn’t that far distant a memory and the scope of that bloody war is truly atrocious. Why does disagreement so often have to lead to physical conflict and even battle? Wouldn’t less testosterone or some meditation training be helpful all around? Surely we (as humans) can learn to talk things through. Heavens, the Quakers have been doing that for some time. I could go on about how annoying politics has become in this respect. While there may be no physical fighting, (with the tragic exceptions like Gabriel Giffords and the others shot at in Arizona), the lobbing of stupid accusations by some politicians certainly explains how a more physical approach to all this would be far more satisfying.
That all being said, I’m still hopeful we can learn to be more tolerant, to listen first rather than react, to look for truths rather than throw accusations based on half-truths (or outright untruths) and find a way through disagreements. So much easier said than done, but so elemental in helping us evolve emotionally rather than just scientifically and technologically.
Somehow, my cancer (or dead brain tumor or whatever it is) seem so minor compared to the lives that have been lost as humans battle over security, resources, philosophies and religion. It’s just all relative, isn’t it?
I’ll close on that thought provoking note. More soon! XXOO, C