Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Things are looking up

What a lovely summer it has been.  We have had a cooler summer than usual, having never even seen a single day where the temperature reached 90 degrees.  We're getting a little warmth and humidity now, but not unbearable.  Living on Maine's coast the way we do, we do not have central air conditioning.  There are so few times that we really wish we did.  Oh yes, it gets hot, and we find ourselves languishing in front of fans, but the worst is usually over in a few  hours.  A couple of weeks ago, it felt like autumn was arriving, with daily highs in the 70s, and nightly lows in the 50s -- heaven!
I have kept myself busy with household and family activities.  My two college boys were home.  All three of the boys came home filthy each day, having worked hard on a landscaping crew that helps keep Kennebunk and Kennebunkport looking immaculately manicured. (Laundry hint here:  1/2 cup of Borax, hot water and a double measure of cheap laundry detergent does the trick for their work clothes -- sometimes I ran an extra rinse cycle too.)  Ian lobstered for Sheldon on the weekends and worked on refurbishing his own lobster boat in every free minute.  Evan surfed at Fortune's Rocks (the beach near our home) every chance he got.  His dear sweet GF Christina came over once or twice a week.  I can't get enough of the happy light she shines around here.  And Sean worked hard, worked out hard in preparation for his senior year football season, and worried hard about his upcoming college applications.

The biggest news of my summer is that my dear brother David is doing really well in his battle with melanoma.  I hardly dare write about it, since I feel almost superstitious about it, like if I say out loud that I think he will win his fight, that I will jinx his odds.  I know it's silly, but there it is.
David was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, which in the past, really has been a death sentence.  As in, 6 months - 2 years survival.  But that was before, and now, I am immeasurably thankful to say that he is getting the best of the best treatment available, and that other people with more dire cases than his(!), are being called cured.  By their oncologists.  You don't hear them utter that word often.  Years and years ago, I removed a melanoma from David's back.  That was a bit scary.  I referred him out to a specialist, who performed a wide excision, and a sentinel node biopsy, both of which confirmed that the melanoma was in situ, meaning no evidence that it had spread, and that it had been cured by the original excision.  Going forward, it meant that he had a higher risk of another melanoma, and that vigilance with limiting sun exposure and regular careful and thorough skin exams were indicated.  And he has done that.
This spring however, he had a black toenail.  Being a builder, he usually has a black fingernail or two, from bruising.  He didn't remember getting an injury, but sure enough the nail shed as he expected it would.  Instead of healing, and new nail appearing, the nail bed was getting worse, bloody, swollen, and he was having trouble wearing shoes, because of the bulky bandaging he was wrapping his toe in.  A biopsy showed melanoma.  This was surprising because we always thought that any new melanomas would occur in a more consistently sun-exposed area (back, shoulders, head). All the information I've ever found about melanoma in the nailbed was that they predominantly occur in dark-skinned individuals.  David and I are both very fair-skinned Caucasians. Further testing showed that he does not have the most common "melanoma gene", and therefore wasn't eligible for the gene-targeted therapies.  He has melanoma tumors in most of his bones, and some in soft tissue.  But none in his brain, or heart.  This spread of tumors distant from the original tumor automatically places him in Stage 4, which is the most serious.  Here's where the story improves.
David was referred to the Melanoma Clinic at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  He qualified for a clinical trial which is being accelerated due to the success they have had so far.  He has been getting intravenous infusions of a wonder drug every 2 weeks all summer long.  He has felt well enough to work, to play, to live his life, mostly.  His dear wife Paula, has devoted herself to feeding him all the best fresh organic healthy foods, and eliminating stress, seeking tranquility and peace as much as possible.  We want his immune system at the top of its game.  We have all been praying our knees off, and loving on each other overtly, instead of quietly, with New England restraint and dignity.  Oh, the hugging and kissing, the smiles and laughter, the declarations of "I love you" right out loud and everything.
Today, David will get news of his first round of imaging tests, a quantitative measure of how he has responded to his treatment.  I am dying for word, although I am pretty sure the news will be good, based on how well David looks on the whole, and that the tumor on his toe has receded and stopped bleeding.  He has been wearing shoes (instead of sandals with socks).  We joke about how many new pairs of shoes he has been sporting.  His sis-in-law gave him a plaque showing a glass slipper, and a quote from Cinderella:  "The right shoe can change your life."  I call him Imelda.
For now, that's the news from this corner.