Our Good News: Immunotherapy Brings Hope

In a Covid-19 environment, it’s always great to hear some positive news to brighten the day. Have you seen John Krasinski’s Some Good News videos? Check them out here – they’ll make you smile.

My husband Marty and I would like to share some good news of our own. The other day our oncologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance stepped into the room holding the results of Marty’s latest CT scan. We couldn’t see his facial expression because he wore a mask. We did too. Dr. Thompson locked eyes with Marty and uttered words we’d not heard in the four years of cancer appointments: “Your scans look pretty good.” Behind our masks, we were all smiles.

We knew that “pretty good” in this doctor’s world meant “great” in ours. The cocktail of two immunotherapy treatments Marty had started in January 2020 was slowing down the cancer train. After 12-weeks on the new treatment, the largest tumors in Marty’s lungs have shrunk by 30% – 40%. Smaller lesions have significantly reduced or disappeared. The spots that remain on the CT scan may actually be dead tumor cells that his body is working to eliminate. A scan in four months will hopefully reveal the full story.

After years of armoring up for doctor appointments to protect ourselves from potential bad news, it was difficult to fully take in the gravity of the good.

Back home, we re-read the scan results like a favorite passage in a book. The words, “multiple metastatic tumors improved” and “significant reduction” filled us with hope. Reading between the lines, we began imagining a life that might not be weighed down by cancer and the endless visits to the doctor’s office. Feeling light, we began calling friends and family to share our news.

Over the past four years we have learned to live with the uncertainty of Marty’s Stage IV cancer. To live for today without fear of the future. To practice patience by trying lower-risk treatments before moving to higher-risk options with the potential of damaging side effects. To focus on science and data in our search for a solution. To keep exercising and eating healthfully to build a strong immune system. To be empathetic and compassionate when relating to others suffering from an illness.

With an inside view of the world of cancer, we’ve noticed that it doesn’t feel quite right to talk about the disease as a win-lose proposition. Descriptions like conquer, winning a battle, or kicking cancer’s ass don’t ring true to us. After all, cancer indiscriminately kills many people, no matter how hard they battle.

Instead we try to focus on the good. Thank goodness for the scientists and researchers pushing boundaries to find new treatments, and the doctors and nurses who show up every day to help those like Marty who are in need.

One final note: We feel incredibly fortunate to have comprehensive health insurance that has allowed us to find the best treatment for Marty instead of worrying about how to pay for his care. Our dream is that one day everyone in the U.S. can feel grateful that they have comprehensive healthcare too.

To learn more about Marty’s cancer journey, check out this post.

Our family loves to adventure. You can learn more about our family quests at www.chrisfagan.net or follow along on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter. Check out Chris’ book, The Expedition: Two Parents Risk Life and Family in an Extraordinary Quest to the South Pole.

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