I am really excited about the direction my life seems to be headed in at this time. I have lots of things going on that are keeping me busy in a good way. I have a new writing assignment which I am absolutely thrilled about. I am so pleased that I am physically well enough to be working. It makes me happy to be using my brain and to feel productive. I have been enjoying fulfilling my duties as co Race Director for the Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series. I was also interviewed for an article this week and am looking forward to seeing the final product when it comes out.
On the physical side of things, I have started a concerted effort to regain the strength I lost over the last year. I promised myself after the Bear Chase that I would make strength training a priority. I had a setback due to getting my chemotherapy port removed, but I finally was able to take the first steps towards fulfilling that goal this week. Finally, I am happy to be getting my running mileage back up. I was able to run the rolling 13 mile Falcon Trail on the Air Force Academy twice this week. I hit 70 miles this week for the first time since running the Bear Chase 50 mile race.
I approached the Colorado Springs City Council about issuing a proclamation making November Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. They were happy to oblige. It is a symbolic measure, of course, but because Pancreatic Cancer has received so little funding and attention, the symbolism really means something to those of us whose lives have been forever changed by this disease.
The Team Tonia Pancreatic Cancer Awareness shirt continued to travel across the United States. My friend Jodi F. finished her first ever half marathon wearing it. I am so proud of her for running the entire distance!
This week, I also did something that I should have done months ago. I sought a second opinion on my Pancreatic Cancer case. This is no way means that I do not have confidence in my local doctor. It is actually recommended that anyone facing cancer or any major illness get a second opinion. I wanted to go in for a second opinion back when I was first diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, but my insurance company fought me at every turn. I was physically and emotionally drained from my surgery and I honestly just gave up. I have always regretted the fact that I did not get that second opinion, though. I have had lingering fears surrounding my circumstances and I just needed to hear from another medical professional that we are on the right path. I needed reassurance. One thing I have found in talking with other Pancreatic Cancer patients is that we often struggle with fear post diagnosis. There is so much uncertainty that comes with Pancreatic Cancer. Even those of us who were diagnosed at an early stage and are currently showing no evidence of disease worry about what is lurking in our bodies. We all know that the survival rates for Pancreatic Cancer are abysmal. No one can tell us if we will be one of the lucky few long-term survivors. We live with those lingering fears. It is just part of the territory.
I knew that by seeking a second opinion, I would not be eliminating my concerns. I hoped I would get some reassurance about the treatments I have already done and the path the we are taking as we go forward. What I am finding is that there is not a whole lot of evidence to tell the doctors how to optimally treat early stage Pancreatic Cancer. The doctors are doing absolutely the best they can with the information they have, but there have not been enough studies done on early stage Pancreatic Cancer to be able to adopt any real standard of care. Because Pancreatic Cancer is often found so late, most studies have been conducted on patients who are at stage 3 and stage 4. It is difficult to generalize the efficacy of those treatments for patients who are stage 1 or 2.
I came out of my second opinion appointment with some good and helpful information. I feel reassured about what I have chosen to do so far. We also discussed in-depth what this doctor believes my risks are going forward. I will be receiving more information towards the end of this week about what he recommends in terms of follow-up care. I think it was well worth paying out-of-pocket to discuss my case in person with another doctor. While no one can fully give me peace of mind, the visit helped ease some of my fears. I highly recommend seeking a second opinion for any major medical decisions. I wish I had done this months ago, but it is truly better late than never.
With all that has transpired over the past couple of weeks, I feel good about where I am right now. I feel happier, healthier and my confidence is coming back. Before cancer, I used to wake up excited about every day. During treatment, all I could do was focus on day-to-day survival. Now, that excitement is coming back. It feels so good to be moving forward instead of running in place.