The Cancer Chronicles on Gratitude by Janine Donoho

Light at the end of the tunnel by Kleineputchen

Consider me a ‘dura mater’. That’s Latin for ‘tough mother’; you can look it up. Yet when the brilliant Dr. Ma called to let me know that random choice placed me in his de-escalation study, I danced a wild happy salsa. Yes, those virulent dandelion seeds of squamous cell carcinoma could be circulating through my body—maybe. Count this study as a dazzling light at the tunnel’s end. Then about four days later, I went squishy again.

After all, the radiation-lite version entails two rounds of a long-lasting and potent cocktail of the steroid dexamethasone followed by docetaxil chemotherapy—squish. These two treatments form a three layer club sandwich around two weeks with 20 radiation treatments at 50% dosage—cue the wild dancing! While the former two drug treatments work to ‘soften’ my immune system, lowering inflammation as they minimize a possible allergic reaction and chemo nausea, this reduced version of targeted radiation zaps microbursts of squamous cell cancer in my neck.

And wait, there’s more! Way better than a Ginsu knife collection, those of us in the lower radiation level group can expect a much higher quality of life a year out versus continuing side effects from the high radiation treatment—for life. Visualize swallowing in a functional way, because along with a commitment to physical therapy, that’s what I’m doing. Yes, dancing—again!

You see, it’s a push-pull kind of equation. Even as the oncology field considers this a much lighter version of treatment for oropharyngeal cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which has more than doubled over the last 2+ decades, while the smoking and drinking version has halved, you still experience steroids, chemo, and radiation. Go figure.

Yes, one day’s a happy dance with the dura mater ascendant—while tomorrow’s the squish. I own it. Gratitude helps.

For more perspective, here’s my ongoing gratitude list:

Dr. Rosinski, my Spokane oncologist whose commitment to research got me here;

my Mayo Clinic team—yes, an actual team;

the exemplary 6th floor staff at Mayo’s St. Mary’s Campus, whose caregivers got me through the 2 days after surgery. When I thanked them, they all began with self-deprecating, “I just…”;

my bosom buddy Anjali’s amazing and fragrant bouquet that lifted the spirits of the entire 6th floor;

Meditation room on 7th floor

the inspirational art, meditation room, and domitilla that kept me walking toward a healthier discharge from the hospital. Picture hiking boots with two hospital gowns;

all the ‘best wishes’ offered by friends and family, which continue to give me strength each and every day;

Wheaten terrier Hannah of Caring Canines

Caring Canines, who allowed me a much needed pup hit;

my body’s ability to take hits while healing and functioning in phenomenal ways.

Let me close with what makes me laugh right now, yes, a polar bear doing my style of happy dance. Enjoy!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jackie
    Jan 21, 2018 @ 15:33:33

    Continue the good fight. Sounds like you are getting great care from some great caring people. Wonderful attitude and wonderful care equals success. Complete success to you Janine.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Teresa Dalton
    Jan 21, 2018 @ 16:12:44

    I’m so glad your doing better. Looking forward to talking to you when your up to it. Sending you energy and healing light. Love and hugs. T

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Louise Alden-Burley
    Jan 21, 2018 @ 22:14:40

    Love the polar bear in dance costume! Keep up the good fight, we’re dancing with you!!!

    Liked by 1 person


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