As every schoolchild knows, the verb “shrink” comes from the Old English scrincan, which in turn is derived from an older Scandinavian word: skrynka, meaning “to wrinkle”. Shrink is an important word to people with nasty tumours on their liver; shrinkage is what we want to happen and it is want we want to see revealed in the scans that patients periodically undergo. Great is the tension before the images are revealed and discussed with the doctor.
I am happy that today’s report in Atlanta shows continued shrinkage of the most worrisome lesion and the stabalization of the other ones. An anxiety-producing spot on the lung which was noted in the last scan is now gone (if it was ever really there). The doctor is happy and that means that the rest of us can be happy too, at least for the next couple of months until the next scan.
Thank you all so much for your support, kind thoughts and prayers. Fighting cancer is a team effort and Kate is deeply moved and grateful to have you all on her side.
“Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years.” So says the song from Fiddler on the Roof, but it is not necessarily the case when you have cancer and are waiting from one bimonthly scan to the next to see if you will be allowed to continue in the experimental drug trial. It is impossible to switch off the lingering anxiety even if all previous scans have been encouraging.
Last week saw another one of these encounters as Kate was accompanied to the Winship Cancer Center in Atlanta by her parents. At first, the news from the doctor who had reviewed the images seemed rather disheartening: one tumour had grown and the other worrisome one had shrunken only minutely. There was also a spot on the lung which, we were told, might be nothing; they would check in another few months. Tears were shed; reassurances were made by the doctor. This was viewed medically as stability and stability was good. Nonetheless, as Kate trooped off to spend hours getting her chemo infused, no one was smiling.
Flash forward a bit. Kate has sent the results home to husband Toban who has got out his figures and charts from previous scans and discovered that someone had miscalculated and the shrinkage we thought was tiny was, in fact, pretty impressive. Now everyone, including the splendid nurses, were smiling.
So for the next two months Kate will continue working up a storm, conducting interviews, going to women’s conferences, and consorting with her Young Scholar colleagues. Helpful parents will take turns being on hand to assist Toban and tractor-obsessed Zachary. And then there will be another scan.
Some of you may have seen a recent interview with Kate in Christianity Today [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/february-web-only/kate-bowler-on-dying-and-sure-hope.html] or read her piece in the New York Times. [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/death-the-prosperity-gospel-and-me.html?_r=1] Many comments on these articles have described her as “dying from cancer” but Kate thinks that a better description would be “critically ill with cancer”. This change does not reflect some sort of unreasonable optimism or assumption that she is being cured by her treatment; it is rather a more accurate description of a state that she will be in for the foreseeable future. This was made clear in a talk Kate had this week with her oncologist at Duke Medical Center: doctors do not foresee a cure. The hope that the immunotherapy and chemotherapy she is receiving offers is that she will not die from her cancer but that that her disease eventually will be manageable. The analogy is one with HIV or diabetes – a condition that will not go away but which will be contained with medication and allow something approaching a normal lifestyle. At this moment Kate is walking toward a chasm, over which a bridge has not yet been built. We live in hope that this life-saving construction will appear and, as always, covet your prayers for Kate and her family.
That sound you just heard was the collective exhalation of breath by Kate and her ground crew. The analysis of the scan on her tumours has come in and it is good news: shrinkage of the nasty things all around. The doctor is pleased with the progress; everything is trending in the right direction.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers. They make a tangible difference in our lives.
On Tuesday Kate will fly into Atlanta for her bimonthly CT scan which checks on the progress of the therapy that she has received. Two months ago, the results were encouraging with marked shrinkage of one of the tumors on her liver. Naturally, everyone would like to see continued progress that would justify Kate’s ongoing participation in the experimental immunotherapy and, equally naturally, tension mounts among her ground crew as we await the news which will come on Wednesday morning when Kate will be undergoing her regular dose of chemo.
Faithful friend Katherine will be driving in all the way from Nashville to be at Kate’s side and keep spirits high. Pray, if you’ve a mind, for her safe travel and happy revelations from the scan.