[Here is the latest - and happiest - entry in former 'Survivor' winner Jenna Morasca's series about her role as a caregiver in fellow 'Survivor' winner and longtime boyfriend Ethan Zohn's battle with cancer.]
Merry PET-mas!! Good news. Ethan and I got an early holiday gift. A negative PET scan!
After a long path full of obstacles, scary things, lots of worry and much pain, we are finally seeing the light at the end – the Christmas lights!
For those of you not familiar with the gatekeeper of tests, the PET scan, let me back track on this story and explain why this is great news.
When Ethan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, the doctors said, “This is the best type of cancer for you to get. It is highly curable.” We thought, OK, this is bad news but its wrapped in good news. Let’s get this chemo over with and get on with life – and so we did.
Except, as all of us know, the easy path was not the one we were given. It shouldn’t have surprised me. Ethan always chooses the hard path; he’s always been about testing himself, he has been through Survivor, Eco-challenge, and ultra marathons without showing the slightest pain or inconvenience – at least I haven’t seen it. I shouldn’t have been surprised his cancer was equally as tough.
After the first round of chemo we found out from the PET that the cancer had not shrunk like it was supposed to and in fact there were two new nodules. Great, so this “best cancer to get” was proving to be quite a pain in the ass. The next round of chemo was the in-patient treatment. I watch Ethan get this poison pumped through his veins as the experts assured us – and perhaps themselves – that this strong medicine would do the trick.
However, another PET scan rolled around and we get more bad news! There were still cancer cells and the mass had not shrunk.
At that moment, I was probably at my lowest point. I was thinking, “What the hell do we have to do to beat this beast?”
After some serious moping and probably a bout of mild depression, I picked myself up, duct taped my positive attitude back together, and prepared once again to wage war on cancer.
We decided to try radiation. The radiation docs were hopeful this would do the trick. If it didn’t work, the future had many twists and turns. But Ethan and I had a change of heart. We decided enough of this bullshit, we have things to do, people to see, places to visits, and a TV show to tape! We have lives to live! In our bodies and in our hearts we told the cancer its time was up, its stay was over.
We started treating the cancer as a past visitor. We were forcing that turn around the corner to heath whether his disease liked it or not. And while there was a lot of stuff we were doing during radiation, including meditations, mantras, and visualizing, I felt in my heart this was it, the cancer was going away.
Then came the PET scan. I was confident it would bring some well-deserved good news. Waiting for the results was still nerve-wracking. I mean this one test pretty much determined the rest of our lives. As we waited, I spent every minute of every day imaging myself getting good news- and then it happened! The doctors called and told us the PET was negative.
The good news meant there are no more active cancer cells in Ethan’s body at this time! I felt like the chains on my heart had been lifted and for the first time since this battle began some of the weight I’ve carried on my shoulders lifted. We did it! He did it! I always knew he could.
Next up: a stem cell transplant (aka “the bubble”), which is bound to be, another path filled with twists and turns, and sorrow and joy. Ethan will be in the transplant for a month and over Christmas and New Years. But we will be celebrating a new and healthy 2010 and that is what I wish for all of you.
And before I wrap up this blog I want to mention a song I think should be every caretaker’s anthem. The song is Beyonce’s “Hero.” Please download and listen to this song I guarantee you it will stir your bones because it really is the anthem to our life.
The next time I write will be from “the bubble”. Just call me Ms. Bubble Boy!
As we head into the holidays, I am wishing all of lights as bright as the lights shining in our lives right now.