Joy and Uncertainty

December 28, 2013

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“We were made and set here to give voice to our astonishments.”

– Annie Dillard

I am so grateful to be alive, and that I was able to have another Christmas with my loved ones. I got very sentimental about it this year, and even put up a tree, which I haven’t done in a while. The effort reminded me of how much easier things used to be, and how much less stamina have now. But the effort was well worth it, and I’m getting so much joy out of it. I’m hoping the needles won’t fall off until Valentine’s Day at least!

My markers are down for the second time in a row. Yay! They are now in the 300-600 range, which is not nearly as terrifying as it was. It’s still bad, and I still need to continue treatment, but it’s moving in the right direction now at least. I’ve also got a wonderful new oncologist in Portland. And I think I’m pretty healthy, except for the cancer… Not knowing, of course, which of the 27 things that I’m doing for treatment is working, I need to continue all of them. I’m so intensely aware that it’s only through the generosity of my family and friends through this fundraiser that I have gotten this far. I feel very blessed. And I also feel like I owe it to everyone now to keep getting better!

The uncertainty is about what happens next. How long will this combination of treatments work? How long should I continue to do each of the things that I’m doing? How can I possibly afford to continue these treatments? How far out can I make plans? What will I have the energy to do in the future?

And… I’m having a weird problem with my left foot, which the doctors are calling “foot-drop”. Don’t Google it! – The millions of things it could be caused by are too terrifying. I’m scheduled for another MRI on Monday to find out if there happens to be a tumor in my lower spine that’s causing this, and to try to figure out if it’s connected to the cancer. In the meantime, I’m tripping up stairs and limping along the beach, but I can still get around. The worst thing is that it’s a constant reminder of the cancer, especially at times that I’m feeling a little joy. I’m planning, in the new year to come up with some projects that will focus my attention on doing things that I love, and hopefully I will feel well enough to do them.

I hope that all of you had wonderful holidays, and are ready to face the new year with love and joy in your hearts as I am. Happy new year! Courage!


Good News!

November 25, 2013

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Finally, some good news! I have been so afraid to write, because for the past few months it has felt very scary – like a runaway train – with my cancer markers rising (rising is BAD) exponentially each month.  But my last blood test showed that my markers are going DOWN (down is good).  The normal range is about 0-35, and both sets of markers had climbed to over a thousand, so now they have dropped by about 300 points each.  Markers aren’t a perfect measure, but this could mean that something I am doing is working!!!

The difficult thing with cancer treatment is that you often don’t know what is working, so the best course right now is to continue with everything.  And to do that, I really need to continue fundraising…

Thank you SO much to everyone has given and spread the word.  You have no idea how important your support and kind notes have been to me over the past few months.  Since July I have tried several new drugs, had twenty IV treatments, multiple shots, swallowed hundreds of pills, and been sticking to a strict diet and cleanse protocol.  I’ve lost over thirty pounds and am now at a healthier weight, which greatly increases my chances of survival. What keeps me going is knowing that I am loved and feeling the support of my family and friends.  And unlike a few months ago, due to this recent good news about the markers, I am allowing myself to think more about the future and trying to figure out how/when I might be able to do some theatre work again.

Metastatic cancer is difficult in many hidden ways.  Of course there’s the physical effects of the cancer and the side effects of the treatments.  But more insidious is the way it colors your thinking about the future.  Pretty much any planning beyond three months out feels too ambitious and risky.  I am hoping to change that!

The way GiveForward works is that I can withdraw funds as I go along, so the money already raised has been well spent on my treatment so far.  In order to continue with the protocol that’s working, I need to raise more funds in December and onward.  Last month there was a wonderful fundraiser at our local yoga studio – RiversZen – and Mark’s documentary film about his mother’s amazing life, “Dancing Lessons”, was shown.  There was live music by Acustica and it was very well attended.  Over $1000 was raised!

http://www.acusticaworldmusic.com/ACuSTICA/CALENDAR.html

I am so blown away by everyone’s generosity and certainly have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

May you all be deeply blessed,

Meg

p.s. Please feel free to “LIKE” my fundraiser page and re-post to Facebook.  The more the merrier! http://gfwd.at/11BoiCm


Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

November 25, 2013

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(This is an old post from July that never got posted.  Sorry!) Well, no news has been good news, and things have been stable for the past 3 years since my going to the clinic in Reno for complementary treatment.  I am coming up on the 5th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  But in the past six months, the picture has changed quite a bit, and I wanted to let people know what’s been going on.
My cancer markers started rising in January, so we knew something was wrong, and the latest PET scan in May showed “widespread metastatic disease” in the bones, and cancer spots on the liver.  My liver actually started to hurt (pain in my side) and I knew I had to change course fast.  I’ve now started getting Xgeva shots for the bones, and Faslodex shots to stop the estrogen, so it’s back to bone pain, flu symptoms, & hot flashes 24/7.  That’s the mainstream oncology approach to this.
I also considered going back to the clinic in Reno, which really saved my life in 2010, but decided first to check out an excellent naturopathic doc in Portland where I’d been getting my Vitamin C IVs (Nature Cures Clinic) who is getting lots of attention for his cancer fighting program – Dr. Greg Nigh.  Last week I got one more IV of Vitamin C and DMSO, which seems to stop the liver pain, thankfully, and decided I will embark on his full four week program on July 8th to supplement my oncologists tactics and try to get this thing turned around before it can spread to other organs.  It includes a strict ketogenic diet, Kelly’s Enzymes, Nutritional IVs, and lots of detox – like coffee enemas and saunas – which I have never done before (or not fully), so I have high hopes. All of his protocols are evidence based and he has lots of patients who are Stage IV and doing better than expected by their mainstream doctors.  It also has a high cost, so I will be starting another GiveForward fundraiser.  *Sigh*  I hate to do it again, but it’s the only way to get the funds – I need to raise about $40,000 to cover the costs for a year – 7000 is the first month (treatment and lodging) and then it tapers down.  I am on disability now, and can’t work and do this at the same time, so it’s really my only option.
I will need to be in Portland five days a week for the first month, so I’m taking month-long sublet there that has the kind of kitchen I need – serious kitchen!
Next step: It’s become almost impossible for the nurses to find a vein in me with out scar tissue to gather blood and give IVs, and every encounter has been so painful, that I decided to get a port.  I had the surgery a week ago Wednesday at St Vincent’s in Portland, and although the placement went well, the area around the port started itching almost immediately.  Thursday was tolerable, but Friday I had to drive back to Portland to look at apartments, and see Dr. Nigh and his Nutritionist, and it was 93 degrees.  The itching developed into a rash and hives, which I was trying to cover with scarf (in the heat!) so as not to freak landlords out, and by the time I drove home last night it was intolerable.  I lay awake for most of the night with my throat and chest feeling like they were on fire, and got up this morning and went to the ER.  They gave me Prednisone, Ranitidine, and Benydryl, and I went right to sleep!  It’s still irritated, but doing much better.  I’m hoping the first needle stick in the new port goes smoothly!  They think I had an allergic reaction to the adhesives they used during the surgery and for the dressings.  Oy.  Nothing’s easy in Cancer-land, but this is relatively minor.
SO, that’s the news in bigger-than-a-nutshell.  I’m still fighting, but feeling scared and overwhelmed by the logistics. The new fundraiser link is above right, and here:
Donations can also be sent to:
Meg Patterson Cancer Fund
c/o Clatsop Community Bank
988 Commercial Street
Astoria, OR 97103
I have a lot of work to do to get my fundraiser going, and get myself to Portland, but Mark is helping me, my mom is on the way, and I am already feeling the support and prayers of many friends.  Feel free to share this information and the fundraiser link with friends, and people who like to support such causes.  There is a Facebook share button on the page to make that easy, but personal emails help too.
Wishing you all health and love,
Meg

Goodbye My Friend

October 12, 2011

October 12th, 2011

My friend Krista died yesterday of Stage IV Breast Cancer metastasis.  (Yesterday was also Mark’s and my first wedding anniversary.)  Like me, Krista was 50 years old.  We met during treatment for our shared diagnosis last year at the clinic in Reno.  She inspired me.  She was vibrant and beautiful and sexy, and funny.  We sat there with IVs in our arms in side-by-side recliners, surrounded by the sick and dying people, who we were not.  We loved them… but they had come for naturopathic treatment too late, and their days were numbered.  We were different.  We would survive.  We compared notes and shared strategies and knew we would make it.

One day Krista, always the multi-tasker, had an on-site windshield repair service come and work on her car in the parking lot of the clinic.  She told the receptionist to send the guy back to her for the keys when he arrived.  When he sauntered in, cute as a button, she gave him her keys and a spectacular smile.  He seemed confused, but happy about it.  When he left, she turned to me and asked; “Do you think it’s weird to flirt with an cancer IV in your arm?”  I assured her it wasn’t.

I had just started my first GiveForward fundraiser when I got there, and Krista was full of questions about that.  She tracked the progress of donations to my site on her smartphone, and gave me blow-by-blow updates from the recliner.  I was feeling ill from the treatment and she was cheering each time a donation showed up on the site.  I had started the fundraiser as a last ditch effort to get treatment and felt embarrassed to be begging in public, but Krista saw it differently.  She thought it was brilliant and brave and she wanted all the details.  Shortly after we returned home, she started her own wildly successful fundraiser, which she credited all to my inspiration.  She focused hers, in addition to funds for treatment and expenses, on donations of airline miles and vacation rentals so that she could spend precious time creating memories of family time for her two teenaged children.

Last year she went to Mexico, Europe, and Hawaii with her kids, all on donated miles and lodging.  She also met the love of her life and traveled to Spain with him… but in the Spring of this year, she was having more and more pain and confided in me that something was happening, something really bad, inside her body.  Still, on April 3rd in an email she wrote: “I am loving my life right now – and I see myself well and strong and helping others.”  When she returned from Spain, she was rushed to hospital with tumors blocking her intestines.  She called and told me that things were serious, with cancer in every major organ, and time was running short.

I flew down to CA in July to see her for the last time.  She was preparing.  She had asked her ex-husband to move into her condo so that her kids would not have to move and change schools when she died.  She was in the process of giving away all her belongings.  She had just moved in to her new love’s cottage, but was wistful about the circumstances… as she said, they weren’t really starting something, but both knew that she was coming there to die.

I wish I could remember clearly all the brilliant things she told me about myself that weekend, but I can’t right now.  I’m too stunned and saddened that such a force of nature could ever be quelled.  Of course, she’s not been extinguished, just transformed… but I can’t reach her on the phone anymore, so we are going to have to find another way to communicate.  She’s been my cheerleader and sister-in-arms for the past year and half, the only one who really “got” what I was going through, because she was going through the same, and I was humbled by her practical and present approach to her own death.

But tonight I’m just trying to grasp a picture of Krista in my mind, feel the warmth of her smile, her energy… I watched a video that someone made at the clinic (video here: http://youtu.be/UiuAmla3EE8); Krista is the blonde in the grey sweatpants and black hoodie.  The speaker is Marilyn, in a star-spangled sweater, who Krista started calling “Mom” that week.  Stew is in the corner, doing poorly, and to her he was “Dad” – spouting wisdom and Shakespeare and telling us all that love is all you need.  Krista told me that she and I were the “kids”, sisters.  It’s so painful to watch now, all that hope and enthusiasm… not that it is ever wasted, but just poignant.  Our “Mom” and “Dad” from the clinic were dead within the month, and most of the patients in the video within the year.  And now Krista.  So that leaves me.  The only one left alive from our hopeful little group.  And I am wondering about how cancer chooses whom to take, and when.

For the past five months my own cancer markers have been steadily rising, up to 40 points over normal.  And I’ve been in constant pain from the small cancer lesions that are in my spine now.  Krista knew this, and warned me to live my life as strongly as I could, because this, she said, could be the beginning of the downward spiral.  She scared the shit out of me, and woke me up to my life every time we talked.  Today I awoke to the news of her death.  Today too, I got the results of my latest blood work – my markers are suddenly DOWN by 20 points.  The cancer is backing off for now, perhaps, giving me time to live a little more.  Thanks to Krista, I have a good idea of how to do that.  SO, I’m launching a new GiveForward fundraiser today to get the treatments I need to keep going (link above right).

I just found a parting gift from Krista.  Last Fall, she sent me a recording of her talking to one of our favorite doctors in Reno, Dr. Maged.  I hadn’t listened to them before, but now just hearing her voice is precious.  If you would like to listen, here it is: https://public.me.com/lightpoler  (It was recorded in two parts, so there is some overlap.)

Goodbye my friend.  We shall meet in the sweet by and by.

Krista at the clinic August 2010 – Third try for a good vein – yikes!


One Year Later

May 2, 2011

It’s just about a year since I returned from my first trip to Reno for treatment.  My cancer markers have remained in the “low normal” range for all this time, so things are looking really good.  Thank you to everyone who contributed time and energy , love and money, towards making my treatment and recovery possible.

To see some of the wonderful donor comments from this past year of fundraising, please check out these links (and click on “Donors” tab) :

http://www.giveforward.com/megpattersonfund

http://www.giveforward.com/Meg-Patterson-Breast-Cancer-Fund

http://www.giveforward.com/megpatterson

[I had to keep varying the name of the fundraiser to keep my site up on GiveForward.  I will be revising the site soon and opening it again to accept new online donations.  In the meantime, donation checks can always be sent to: Meg Patterson Cancer Fund, c/o Clatsop Community Bank, 988 Commercial Street, Astoria, OR 97103]

There were also wonderfully inspiring notes and cards and emails that came and helped give me courage throughout the year.  Thank you all so much.

In October 2010, Mark and I finally got married!  There are wedding pictures at http://www.megpatterson.org

And this Spring, I began graduate school!  I am studying for my MA in Humanities at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.  It’s a hybrid online/residential program, so I work mostly online and go down to Pacifica once each semester.  The photo is me on my first day of school in 30 years, with my new friend Debbie (photo by another new friend, Rachel Ford).

I’m moving slowly into what cancer survivors call “the new normal” stage of the journey, although the doctors never use the word “remission” with Stage IV cancer.  All I know is that my markers are normal, I feel fine mostly, and I am working hard to rebuild my life.  Cancer will always be a hum in the background though, and I will always be “in treatment” in terms of diet, supplements, and naturopathic protocols, which are costly and time-consuming.  The gift of survival comes with the knowledge that things will never be quite the same.


Home from Reno

September 5, 2010

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I am SO happy to be home from Reno.  Even though it’s where I need to be for treatment, the dry air and heat in Reno just don’t agree with me.  Also, SO many people smoke there!  Now I am back to the fresh air of the Pacific Northwest and all my healthy habits.  I can walk by the river and go to the Farmers Market today.

OK, so there WAS one very good thing about Reno – MY VESPA SCOOTER!  I got my housing this time for free by placing a listing on HomeExchange.com, and it turned out that a very nice hairdresser in Reno with an apartment in the historic older part of town near the river wanted to do a non-simultaneous exchange.  So I stayed in her apartment while she stayed with friends across the hall, and I had the use of her scooter while I was there!  It was a real challenge, riding in the heat and smog, but I’ve loved Vespas ever since I rented one in Italy years ago, and took to it again pretty easily.  There was one day when I felt too depleted from the treatment to scoot, and that day my friend Krista (we met last time, and arranged to go back for the same week this time), picked me up in her air-conditioned Volvo – bless her.

So, my markers are down, my blood work looks good, the doctors were VERY pleased with my progress, and revised my protocol somewhat.  I think I will take about 10 fewer pills a day (still taking over 50 pills a day, plus some nasty tasting – and expensive – liquid Poly-MVA).  And I will start alternating IV Chelation therapy with my weekly IV Vitamin C routine.  The results of a hair analysis showed that I have high levels of Cadmium, Tin, and Lead in my body and I need to get rid of that to keep the cancer in check.  Unfortunately, I also still have parasites, possibly from a trip to Peru 20 years ago, so I will be taking Artemesia and a homeopathic Parasite tincture for that.  Whew!

And the wedding plans are still in progress.  Yesterday on the way home from Portland airport, I went to an AMAZING fabric store there called Mill Ends, and got some exquisite ivory English netting and lace to make my wedding veil.  I spent about three hours in sensory heaven there, looking at all kinds of fabric I don’t need, and dreaming up projects in a way that I haven’t done in many years.  Such fun!

Thank you to everyone who has been donating to make my treatments possible.  I am starting a new fundraiser on GiveForward.org that will be up and running later this week, as I still owe the clinic about $7,000 for last week, and I have to get about $1500 of treatments and medicines each month now.  Medicaid thankfully covers the Zometa, Zoladex, Femara, and even some Acupuncture! but there are still co-pays and necessary treatments that they do not cover.  It really doesn’t make sense to me, since what I’m doing is working and is cheaper by far than traditional chemo… but that’s how it is, so I must raise the money for myself.

So, in my mind anyway, I am scooting on!  [I’m wondering how one can add a pair of matching Vespas to a wedding registry…. ]

Driving AWAY from the clinic!!!


Cautiously Ecstatic

July 30, 2010

The good news is that my cancer markers have gone down for the second month in a row.  Dr. Forsythe called me from Reno when he got the report to congratulate me!  So I guess the wedding plans are on for October!  It feels reckless to be planning a forever thing when just recently I was thinking it was the end of the line…

So to celebrate, my wonderful friend and neighbor Carrie took some photos of Mark and me and (a reluctant) Tasha, all dressed up, yesterday down at the train station.  Thanks Carrie!


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