Tuesday, October 12, 2010

PET Scans and Bucket Lists

Hi Everyone,

October 8, 2010 is my 4 year anniversary of my original diagnosis. I’m pretty tickled to still be here 4 years later so today is a very good day. I thought I would share a couple of things with you, first an update on my health.

3 weeks ago I had Avastin treatment and they drew my CA 27.29 number again, that’s the tumor marker test. It increased to a 49 which takes me outside the normal range again. I’ve also had a significant increase in pain in my knees, hips and my entire spine. And the pain has come on fast and furious, enough so that I started taking the elevator up the one floor at work. My oncologist, Dr Bowers, recommended another PET CT scan since it’s been about 6 months since my last one and wanted to see what was going on. I had the test on Thursday and Friday morning we sat down with Dr. Bodeau, the radiologist, to review the scans.

He started with the soft tissue. Good news, there is still NO cancer in any of my soft tissues. Yeah! That makes me very happy. Onto the bones now. From an untrained eye, mine, when I looked at the scans everything looked way brighter with more activity. To someone who knows what they are looking at, Dr. Bodeau, the brightness is because they added contrast to the test and I didn’t have contrast on the last PET. So he zeroed in on known tumor locations, L3 and L5 and looked at the “SUV #’s”. SUV’s are “Standardized Uptake Values” and measure the brightness values of “hot spots”. The scale range is from zero to 15, zero being no uptake and 15 is the maximum uptake. Most cancers are above a 3 on this scale and mine are no different.

So Dr. Bodeau is going back and forth on the SUV’s of the tumors and everything that is coming out of his mouth sounds positive. Not what JR and I are expecting to hear. We’re so used to hearing “well it looks like its spread to this location blah, blah, blah, bad news, bad news, bad news” that we aren’t even hearing anything positive anymore. We need to cut that out because as it turns out, my “metastatic activity has been reduced by 20 – 35%”. This treatment path is working. Yeah again!

JR and I walked out of the Dr’s office like Rick Moranis in Ghost Busters after the building blew up; kind of dazed, and we had no idea how to react to good news. It really didn’t hit us for about an hour after our meeting what we’d heard. If I didn’t think I’d throw my back out I probably would have popped off a couple of cartwheels in celebration. We’ve been celebrating ever since.  Don't get me wrong, we still understand I am a stage four cancer survivor, but we will take all the good news and positive progress we get!

So that brings me to my bucket list. Lots of people want to share in my bucket list adventures and so I am going to put them out there for everyone to see. If you want to participate in or help me knock some of these off the list, let’s do it! I’m also looking to add onto the list in case I get close to crossing these all off. Here we go:

These are Bucket List items already done or in progress:

Trip to Italy – Spring of 2010 – trip of a lifetime! 
Venice in Springtime
Glass Blowing class – taking classes right now, so far I’ve made 2 clear paperweights.
Glass blowing in Italy.  My Classes are in Minneapolis
Learn to make Beef Wellington for JR – Done – it kicked ass too

Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole with Mom, Robert and Aunt Kathy – went fall of ’09. It was great!
Little Aunt Kathy, Robert, Me, Mom near the Tetons in Jackson Wyoming (J.R. behind camera)

Sky Dive Solo 

Chute Opening

Looking for a soft landing
Skydive Solo.  Check!

Learn how to play the guitar, specifically “You Are my Sunshine”. JR is teaching me this one now, I just have to practice. JR said I can’t cross this one off until I sing it for you around the fire pit. You should probably start drinking now.
Ski Jackson Hole – substituted this one for a trip to Aspen with Dad this past spring.
Dad and Me in Aspen - Spring 2010
Take Helicopter flying lessons–Done on September 25th- It was awesome!
Flying above Lake Minnetonka
Learning to hover
Hot Air Balloon Ride - We did this October 7 after work in Stillwater.  It was fantastic and a perfectly beautiful fall day. I highly recommend that you do this too.  Thanks Aamodt's!
Flying over J.R.'s hometown of Stillwater
J.R. and Me above Stillwater and the St. Croix River
Just above the oldest working lift bridge of it's kind in the Country.  The water is high from Fall rain.
St. Croix River Fall 2010
Visit Minnehaha Falls – I’ve lived here for 17 years and it’s 10 minutes from my office. I have wanted to see it many times but never got over there. I thought this was a major crime to live here and not see it and have recently found out lots of people here haven’t seen it either. We saw Minnehaha Falls on October 11 which was a beautiful warm Fall day.
Minnehaha Falls October 2010
Bucket List Items Remaining in no particular order
  1. Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef – John & Amy Holmes want to go with us. This has been on my list since I was in high school and one of the higher priorities on my list.
  2. African Safari – This has also been on my list since high school and also a top priority.
  3. Paint Off with JR- We’re both competitive and we have this spot above our fireplace that needs a picture, we keep bragging that ours would be better than the other persons, neither of us know how to paint. (Comment from guest author J.R. - Jen is very artistic and unless Ray Charles is the judge this will be the easiest win of her life!)
  4. Drive a ’68 or ’69 Camaro – I used to want to own one of these, now I just want to drive the damn thing for a weekend. Believe it or not, this is harder than you think to do here in MN.
  5. Alaskan Cruise- I’d like to cross this one off next summer.
  6. Santa Fe, NM – Kerry and Bev
  7. Ski Jackson Hole- yes, I did substitute Aspen for this and damn it, now I want to ski Jackson Hole too.
  8. White Water Raft the Grand Canyon – I don’t need to camp out for 7-14 days like all the brochures say, I just want to go for a day, is that so hard?
  9. Visit NFL Hall of Fame – I love my Steelers!
  10. Take Dad and Roseann to Lake Vermillion
  11. Go to Napa Valley
  12. Scuba Dive a Wreck with Laz – I don’t care where it is, except if it’s in a lake, where’s the fun in that? Somewhere warm Laz!
  13. Go snowmobiling on Lake Vermillion with Bob and Mary Michels – This past summer I was telling Bob and Mary all the ways that I knew I wasn’t going to die. I won’t fall through the ice driving in a truck or snow mobile on a frozen lake, I won’t get attacked by a bear, an alligator, a mountain lion or get swallowed whole by a big python. And the reason none of these things will ever happen to me is that I won’t be in any of these places to begin with. So Bob proceeds to tell me how safe snowmobiling is in the winter, blah blah blah, and after several cocktails, talked me into doing it this winter. That ice had better be 3 feet thick Bob, otherwise I might have a stroke.
  14. Ice Fish –Can’t think of anything stupider than ice fishing. Freezing your butt off on a frozen lake with a fishing pole that’s 18” long. Who came up with this one? His wife must have been extremely ugly or he was VERY hungry. But, if I’m going to be on the lake on a snow mobile any way, I might as well get in a little ice fishing and enjoy a cocktail while I do it, because everyone has told me it’s not about the fishing, it’s about the drinking. People in MN are crazy.
  15. Go to a meat raffle. – Everyone reading this who do NOT live in MN, let me tell you what this is. Apparently we go to a dive bar, OK I’m in for that, those are fun, we buy raffle tickets, OK I’m in, again I’m competitive, and we win…..MEAT! What kind of meat you ask? Apparently you can win all kinds of meat. Bacon, roasts, steaks, hot dogs, I guess you could win venison etc. If it’s meat, you can win it. When I first heard about a meat raffle I was kind of appalled by it. But the fun factor has taken over and now I’d like to get a gang together and head out to our closest meat raffle, coolers and ice ready and let’ win some meat!
  16. Turkey Bingo with Nancie Pass. – Yup, you guessed it, same as a meat raffle only you win turkeys right before Thanksgiving. Hopefully they aren’t still alive. I like bingo, I like turkey, I like my friend Nancie. Sounds like a great day to me!
  17. Mediterranean Cruise- This should be higher on my list; I’ve always wanted to go to Greece and Italy and thought maybe this would be the only way I’d get to see both. Now that I’ve been on cruises too, I’ve got to see the color of the water in the Mediterranean.
  18. Grace Land – got to visit Elvis! 
  19. Sedona- My sister Sue told me it’s one of the most beautiful places she’s been so now I have to go check it out for myself.
  20. Egypt – I’d like to see the pyramids and the sphinx.
  21. Visit the Redwood Forest – I want to drive through one of those big trees.
  22. Hang Glide – When we were in Jackson Hole last fall we saw people doing this, I should have done it. Then I saw people doing it when I was in Aspen this spring. I should have done it then too.  Someday soon.
  23. Ski Cortina, Italy – Dad has been talking about how great skiing is here for years. I gotta go.
  24. Dog Sled Ride
  25. Visit to Montreal
  26. See the play “Our Town”
  27. Ice Skate at Rockefeller Center
  28. Train Ride through the mountains – US or Canada – don’t care which
  29. Eagle watching in Wabasha, MN – there is a spot on the river where the ice doesn’t close up and dozens of bald eagles come to hunt and mate in the spring- it’s supposed to be really cool.
  30. Visit a Volcano
  31. Learn how to make gravy
  32. Throw pottery with Tara – like glass blowing, I’ve always wanted to throw clay
  33. Go to Germany during Oktoberfest
  34. Fly in a Bi Plane – I’ve always wanted to wear the little leather hat and goggles and fly in an open cockpit.
  35. Fly in a P51Mustang WWII plane – this plane is a total bad ass, end of story.
  36. Meet Robert Plant – I’d like to do more than meet Robert Plant but this would be a good start
  37. Have a beer with Jerome Bettis – he has one of those faces and looks like he’d be a good guy to have a beer with.
  38. See an opera in Verona, Italy in the Roman Coliseum.
  39. See Ava and Joey graduate from high school
  40. Hold my grandchildren


KJ n Bo said...

The Mitchells and Andersons are headed to New York! (Will work on my contact list to see who might know someone who knows someone who can help out with bucket list items!)

jeanne said...

You're awesome. I know a Catholic Church in Dayton (by Elk River) that does family turkey bingo every year. Not sure when but I'll let you know if you don't find a place with your friend.

VFW's and Legion's do meat raffles too. Fun!

Tammy said...

Hi Jen I am almost a 10year survivor and have done the 3 day walk twice 08and 09 it was awsome! the reason I'm writting you is I seen your bucketlist and like it the one that really caught my eye is the ice fishing. Well I love to ice fish we live on the lake in the winter, I do mean really live on the lake!. Our houses our on lake of the woods and if you would like a awsome fishing expirence get ahold of me we have 4 houses and can set you up. tammy tammysiebert69@gmail.com

kevin Fontana said...

jen i just talked to your friend Nanette. if you make it out to california i will show you the great big redwood trees.

kevin Fontana said...

by the way napa valley isnt far from the redwoods. day with the redwood and a nice weekend in napa valley.