This inpatient stay lasted one week. On the day I was discharged from the hospital, I asked my doctor to "say the words." He understood exactly what I meant. He obliged by saying the happiest phrase there is for me right now: "No Evaluable Disease." Hearing those words--from him, especially--filled me with a joy I can't begin to describe.
It is almost incredible to me. Not very many months earlier other doctors--several of them--described my diagnosis as terminal. Yet, a couple of days ago, a written discharge summary arrived via USPS from the NIH which told a better story. As I slowly read the report, my mind absorbed every word, recalling each scene as I had experienced it. My cancer riot was all there--years of uncertainty, painful treatments, and now success--distilled into a few short paragraphs on a couple of sheets of ordinary paper. It was written by the doctor who, to my great benefit, had seen me through the rigors of the clinical trial, on-going follow-ups, and this most-recent lobectomy. It is this doctor's voice that I hear when I read the report.
COURSE IN HOSPITAL
Ms. Ryan is a 50 year-old female with a history of colon cancer who after undergoing standard therapy, self-referred to the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute
She received 148 billion cells
(she underwent) a left lower lobe resection.
Colon cancer metastatic to the lungs, now without evaluable disease.
I read it over and over. I marvel at all that has happened to me: surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and countless needles, transfusions and bone-crushingly painful neupogen injections...the nausea, the fatigue, the waiting--waiting for acceptance onto the trial (2 no's before a yes), waiting to know whether my cells would grow, waiting to know whether they would work... All of it leading up to this one amazing report; this one phenomenal result: Restored Health. No evaluable disease. I cry tears of joy and relief, but then a wave of sorrow hits me as I think of friends who passed away in this same space of time.
I thank God for this life. Always. Always. I thank God for the men and women at the NIH, and for all of the people who prayed for me.
I am scheduled to undergo apheresis again early in May, to facilitate another TIL treatment (one that I may never need). I had
"Feeders?!" The word conjurs unpleasant thoughts. I am too squeamish. Instead, I will dwell on the phrase, "No evaluable disease."
I am dreading the 5-1/2 hour apheresis procedure but I will try not to complain.
LIFE IS GOOD!