It was only a week ago that we received the great news about Megan’s latest scans. Although she still has the single tumor in her chest, which represents her third relapse, her PET scan showed that there was no other cancerous activity in her body!!! Other than a scan with No Evidence of Disease (NED), that was the best possible news we could have hoped for. In fact, the PET scan showed that although the tumor in her chest had grown slightly, it actually showed less cancerous activity than before. Her doctors were amazed by this, and after reviewing her case with their entire team, they decided to hold off on Megan’s scheduled proton radiation treatment for seven weeks. She was supposed to start her 6th round of radiation on Monday, June 18, but the news of her last PET scan gave her a seven week reprieve! On the one hand, that was fantastic news, because now we can actually have some normalcy over the summer. We can plan a family vacation, hold a 4th of July party, and all of those other “normal” summer activities without worrying about Megan’s treatment. However, as we were reminded of this week, cancer’s grasp is powerful. Although Megan was so happy and relieved with her latest scan results, the fact that she still has a tumor and is receiving no treatment brings with it an anxiety and worry that only she can understand. Undergoing the archaic treatments still used on children with cancer is awful, but living as a cancer survivor definitely has its own demons. As unfair as it may be, the fact of the matter is that cancer will always be a part of Megan’s life. Her “normal” and “normal” for the rest of us will be forever different.
Although Megan hated her chemo and radiation treatments, strangely enough her treatments brought her some much needed peace of mind. Her cancer has always reacted to her chemo treatments, and each of her previous five rounds of radiation have been successful. Therefore, while she is undergoing such brutal treatments, at least she knows that her cancer will not return. Now that she will be away from treatment for the next seven weeks, cancer is starting to steer her mind to some dark places that bring with it anxiety and fear. Megan tries everything to suppress any negative thoughts, and over the past three and a half years, she has become quite adept at positive thinking. When her mind starts to race with negative cancer thoughts, she will play with her pets, text her peers from all over the world, or just lose herself in social media for a bit. Understandably, there are times where the thoughts are so strong that her diversions don’t work. That’s when her true emotions come out and we are all reminded that this teenage warrior of ours is actually human. Although we were all thrilled with her latest scan results, Megan knows full well that even though the battle has been won, her war with cancer is far from over.
Sometimes I worry that Megan’s positive attitude and infectious smile make her fight look unrealistically easy…when it is anything but easy. In fact, it is a mental and physical battle the likes of which none of us could ever imagine. Cancer is a formidable foe, and even though there are times it gets the best of Megan, those times are few and far between. Make no mistake…cancer is losing this battle!!!
There were a couple times this week when Megan’s emotions got the best of her, and when that happens, there is no better antidote than animals. One particularly rough evening, Megan and I hopped in the car and headed to the pet store so she could play with the puppies. As you can see…on this particular evening an Australian Shepherd brought back that smile we have all grown to love 🙂
And when a trip to the pet store is not in order, Megan always finds a sense of comfort in her kitten, Willow. That kitten that Kenzi got her is the gift that keeps on giving!!!
Although Megan had a few rough moments this week, as always, the vast majority of the time she is still incredibly positive and optimistic. This week we started talking about an academic plan that could potentially allow Megan to graduate with her class, which has always been a goal of hers. She also started talking about college and what she wants to study. She has always loved the entertainment industry, and she would love to find something in that field. However, she also really wants to help other pediatric cancer patients who are going through what she has experienced. She has been seriously talking about becoming a Child-Life Specialist and working in a pediatric cancer hospital. I’m sure her own experiences coupled with her empathy and positivity would make this an ideal profession for her. Wherever her future leads her, I know that her battle with cancer has only made her stronger and more determined than ever. It’s just comforting to hear her talking about her future as opposed to her next chemo treatment 🙂
It’s been so nice having Kenzi home for the summer. Although she has been extremely busy with two jobs and taking a summer school class, we have still found some time to do some things together as a family. Today, we went to Naperville to see one of Kenzi’s CCHS classmates perform in the musical production of “Hairspray”. Both girls love that musical, and to get to watch her friend Joey Fatigante perform in it was an added bonus. The performance was wonderful and Joey did a great job. Here is a picture of Deb and the girls before the show, and a picture of the girls with Joey after the show.
After the musical, we hustled to Portillo’s in Bolingbrook for a birthday party for Grandma Coope, who turned 80 years old. It was fun to see family and to celebrate Grandma’s special day with her. Of course, there is no better way to celebrate a birthday that with a piece of Portillo’s chocolate cake!!! 🙂 Here is a picture of our family with Grandpa and Grandma Coope.
Speaking of having Kenzi home…one of her summer jobs is at Nelly’s Restaurant in Wilmington. The owners of the restaurant are wonderful people who have always been extremely supportive of Megan and our family throughout her journey. They worked with Kenzi to organize a “Team Megan Day” on Tuesday, July 3. On this special day, they will donate 10% of every order to Megan’s charity supporting the work of Dr. Walterhouse at Luries Children’s Hospital in Chicago!!! Megan has raised over $85,000 to support Dr. Walterhouse’s research on pediatric sarcomas, and her goal is to get to $100,000. She is committed to ending childhood cancer, and she is very excited that Nelly’s will be partnering with her on July 3. Come on out to Nelly’s on Tuesday, July 3 and enjoy some awesome food while supporting Megan in her quest to end childhood cancer!!!
Given the pace of our lives for the past three and a half years, this week actually seemed somewhat normal…which actually felt somewhat strange. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a feeling I could very used to. It’s just that our family has been riding the cancer roller coaster for so long, and now that we’ve gotten off for seven weeks, we have to get our legs back under us again. However, once we do, this will definitely be a summer to remember! Until next week…