Birthday Reflections on My Cancer Experience: I’m Fighting the Best I Can

Today is my birthday, and while I’ve had some unforeseen changes in my cancer treatment lately, I’m grateful to still be here to celebrate.

Today is my birthday, and I have received some wonderful gifts, which were much needed after a difficult past few weeks.

I am a nine-year survivor of ovarian cancer, and went through three surgeries, four rounds of chemo, two bouts with radiation therapy, and most recently, I was enrolled in a clinical trial with a vaccine and Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Last November, my oncologist referred me to Dr. Casey Cosgrove at The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University in Columbus where I would participate in the clinical trial.

The trial consisted of taking a vaccine in the form of six subdermal shots in my arms, legs and abdomen along with the immunotherapy agent Keytruda every three weeks. I did this from December until March.

My oncologist and I had a special bond, as he was familiar with my writings for curetoday.com. Two weeks ago, I was told that I could not continue the trial as my results so far did not meet the protocol the trial demanded. I was very hopeful that the trial would be something that was going to work. My CA-125 levels (tumor marker score for ovarian cancer) did go down, so I at least had that going for me. However, some other measurement numbers dropped me from the trial.

Since Dr. Cosgrove was technically my new oncologist, he referred me to an oncologist in my home city as Columbus is more than two hours from my home.

Then in January, I found out that the oncologist I was seeing closer to home was going to be moving out of state in April to be with her family. This was a real blow to me. She was with me from day one for nine years. Dr. Shruti Trehan will always be the one who saved my life from the start.

Another blogger for curetoday.com, Jane Biehl, also had the same oncologist and she wrote a piece about our doctor. Her words echoed my sentiment exactly. Dr. Trehan was brilliant, and even referred me to the Cleveland Clinic for surgery with Dr. Peter Rose when she felt this was the best next step of my journey.

So last week I felt lost. I had no clinical trial and no new oncologist yet. But I did not give up hope. I scanned the internet for more trials and found a possible one at the Cleveland Clinic.

I called the clinic and they reached out to me to come back and see Dr. Rose. I saw him last Thursday, and we came up with a plan. He too, referred me to the same doctor that Dr. Cosgrove suggested, Dr. Sareena Singh. So, while I felt lost and a bit afraid last week, I did have some success as a plan was put into motion.

This morning, I was able to schedule my first appointment with Dr. Singh for this Wednesday. I am excited to meet her and start the plan, which more than likely will be more chemo. On Friday, I have my last appointment with Dr. Cosgrove in Columbus as the last protocol when leaving a trial. Dr. Rose is sending my tumor sample to a place that will look for mutations in the tumor that may develop into a treatment for me specifically. That would be my wish in all of this.

With my birthday, I am a year older, and I am still here. I am fighting the fight the best I can.

My gifts: I woke up. I kissed my husband before he went to work. I heard from all my children, stepchildren and grandchildren in the morning while still in my pajamas. I received flowers and gifts. There was a cake! I received texts and calls from my dearest friends. Facebook has been ringing all day from well-wishers from my high school friends as well as work friends. And the sun is shining!

This birthday is the best, as I am here to celebrate life with my family and friends. I am so lucky and will seize the day!

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