5 years after diagnosis.

In the late summer/early fall of 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage 3b colon cancer that had already invaded my lymph nodes and pretty quickly spread to my liver, becoming stage 4 colon cancer.  We have been chasing this cancer away ever since.

In 2013 I read that I would have a 13% chance of surviving. 

If 100 people with my diagnosis stood in a room together and each year came back there would be fewer and fewer people.  I read that in 5 years, the percentage has gone up a whopping one percent.  This year, there would be 14.  I’m one of them.  This fills me with deep gratitude.  And deep sorrow and anger for the 86 people who fought and were overcome  by this terrible disease.  Just like I don’t know why I got cancer as a 35 year old active woman, I don’t know why I’m in this small group of survivors.  All I can do is be thankful and be an active participant in our race to a cure.  I have participated in clinical trials (Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis was injected into me, carrying with it some magical immunotherapy designed to teach my immune system to fight cancer) and research studies (I was screened and received counseling for being at high risk for depression following my surgery on my liver.  I wasn’t depressed, but I benefited greatly from my relationship with my counselor.)  I had genetic testing to learn about my family history and a possible genetic link.  They found no clear link, but there is markedly higher risk in my family.  The one great thing about colon cancer is that you can catch it before it starts with proper screening.

So here’s some awesome news:  I had my CT scan and it was CLEAR.  My blood work shows that my tumor markers are nonexistent, which means my cancer is undetectable.  I do not currently have any trace of cancer in me.   I made it for five years.

(My oncologist is the coolest.)

The gratitude comes in waves.  Grateful for more time with my people.  Grateful to have more time to use my gifts and strengths to make the world better.  Grateful to have time to see more places. Have more thrilling moments.  To be surprised by what beautiful things life brings.  Adventures lie ahead.  Invite me on one.  I’ll say yes.

I want at least 100 more adventures in the next six months.  Like these:

‘Twas the Night before a CT Scan…

The night before finding out if you are healthy or not is always a weird night.  You have to go on with normal activities.  For me, today, it was brunch with friends, back-to-school shopping, and dinner with my parents.  But there is always this little thought in the back of your mind saying “tomorrow, everything could be different again.”  The weight of that thought can be crushing.  But I’m lucky enough to have five years of experience.  😊

What I will share from my experience is this:  I know one powerful weapon for fighting fear.  It’s gratitude.  Deliberate, specific gratitude.  I sit and reflect, purposefully on all there is to be grateful for.

Cass – what a kid.  What a joy to be her parent, her mother.  I’m still in awe that this kid grew inside my body from a couple of cells, into a human person with ideas and opinions.  Come on!  Life is amazing!  She is so funny and so fun and so sweet.  I love the way her mind works and her caring, kind heart is going to change the world.

My family – My husband basically keeps me alive and on track and reasonably organized.  He’s a human smart phone.  He also knows when I’m anxious and he does lots of very nice things for me.  My parents continue to feed me some of the best meals I’ve had in my life, make life special for Cass on a regular basis and surprise us often in ways that just make my day.   My extended family gives me great joy for all of the amazing ways that have supported us and thoughtfully cheered us on.  But mostly, they are tons of fun to spend time with.

My new job – what an adventure.  I’m working among some of the smartest, talented people in our field, and I’m energized and excited every day by how much more there is to know.  We are helping people in our profession impact so many lives, it’s amazing.  I’m humbled to be part of this group, and guided by sharp minds and kind hearts.

My friends – I know some of the funniest, most caring, generous people on this planet.  Some of you never cease to amaze me with how open you still are to learning, growing, changing, challenging ideas and shifting thinking.  You’re open and vulnerable and honest.  You don’t care about maintaining some reputation or putting on a front – you care about authenticity and supporting each other.  I’ve had some incredible conversations lately – thank you to each of you who challenge me, trust me with the truth, make me laugh, point out wise and interesting things about this world.  We are so fortunate to have each other and live in a time where if you are in Ohio, Colorado, California, New York or even Korea for a few weeks, I can still tell you something hilarious and know you’ll love it as much as I did.

I love this life.  My heart is full of love for the people who have been kind enough to be in relationship with me.  The perspective this rocky road of the past five years has given me is…at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is real, meaningful relationships.  I have them in spades and I’m so, so grateful.

Tomorrow’s outcome is important.  It will inform many things in coming months.  It will have significant impact on my emotions and the emotions of those around me.  But it’s not everything.  Many things will still be true even if we were to get news we don’t like.  God will still be good, and He will still be on His throne.  My family will be there like they always have been.  And Team Jessi will still roll deep.  I will still have joy.  I will still laugh.  I will still trust God, even when the adventure is scary.

But, let’s put our thoughts and prayers in motion, if you feel comfortable joining us in prayer.  Pray to our Father in heaven, for good news tomorrow.  Amen.