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Rise to the Challenge. And Carry On.

It was just about a year ago when I got news that turned my world upside down...again. I had been in a clinical trial for right at four years. During that time, I had gotten countless CT scans and nearly 100 infusions of the immunotherapy drug, Opdivo.

Preparing for Infusion #100

Ninety-eight infusions of Opdivo, to be exact. I knew about immunotherapy and how it works before almost anyone. I remember going to the ER one day in 2014 with an unexplained fever and warning them that I was on immunotherapy. The nurses, techs, and doctors looked at me like I had three heads. They had absolutely no idea how to pronounce it or what it was. Until then, I don't guess I really realized just how new this treatment really was.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to celebrate my centennial infusion. I guess we all set goals of sorts...mine was to get that 100th infusion of Opdivo. In my mind, it meant I would have done something that very few people in the world had ever done. I had big plans for Infusion #100: cookies, balloons, laughter, and celebration. It was one of the biggest milestones I had set for myself - ever. And, I was going to cross it in just two more weeks.

What the CT scan revealed

My latest CT scan showed that the tumor in my supraclavicular lymph node had increased in size a bit, but I wasn't worried. The scans had shown a little growth and a little shrinkage, a little growth, and a little shrinkage, all through my treatments. I assumed that this was just another one of those times when the radiologist either read the scans wrong or we would decide to watch it and go on. I was totally unconcerned.

When my oncologist walked into the room and told me that there was growth and that he was taking me off of the trial...the trial I had been on for four years of success...the trial that was going to see me receive my 100th treatment of Opdivo...he was taking me off of it??? What?????!!!

My world crashed. Oddly, the crash came not because my tumor was growing again, but because suddenly it seemed questionable as to whether I would ever get that now-elusive 100th treatment. Strange how our minds work, isn't it?

Coming to terms with the news

I'm not a crier, but I shed some tears that day. Somehow and inexplicably, I was unconcerned about the reason why I wasn't going to get to Infusion #100. The fact that my cancer was on the move again after 4 years of relative stability was apparently no big deal to me. But, to make it through 98 treatments and not make 100...I just couldn't deal with it.

However, when I got home and the shock wore off, I started really thinking about my situation. Infusion #100 took on far less significance than figuring out what to do next.

Meeting challenges head on

Have you been there? Where you feel like your life is basically in your hands and the decisions you make seem like they may mean the difference between life or death?

It challenges us. There's nothing easy about it. But, somehow, we rise to the challenge. And carry on. And, a year later, I'm still here, telling my story.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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