Some of my friends say they worry about me because I seem to be missing the “Fear Gene.” Fear is rarely a limiter in my life. I’m often agreeing to do something before I work through the details. And in most cases, leapfrogging over fear to decision-making (read: saying YES) has led to great adventure. It may have seemed reckless to quit my (well-paid) television (stable) news anchor (established) career (did I mention “well-paid?”) to move to a town I’d visited twice and where I knew three people. In UTAH. This decision probably looked more off the wall than it actually was (to me, anyway… “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”). There was also swimming with sharks, jumping out of a plane high over North Carolina, climbing Kilimanjaro ten weeks after chemo and radiation, and sailing with (mostly) strangers on a 66″ boat through the one of the world’s most dangerous passages to Antarctica (and back). I could go on, but that’s probably enough, even with a blog post that has no max word count. You get the idea.
When people first started asking me if I were scared to do this or that, when I was about ten, I would glance at them with uncomprehending eyes (askance!) and say no. Not that I’ve never been fearful. My heart was beating at about 180 BPM when I stood on the shore of the lake at Clermont for my first triathlon years ago (I’d been praying that my friends’ car wouldn’t start so they wouldn’t pick me up. Alas. They showed up. And the feeling of fear didn’t stick.), but I’m mostly not afraid. The absence of the fear gene has served me well through the years.
I will admit it’s weird, even to me, that three cancer diagnoses in my lifetime didn’t stir an ember of fear in me. There have been periods of anxiety and concern, but not the dread that I’ve seen in others facing the same horribleness. I can’t really explain this, except to say that I have always believed that fear and worry are negative energy. I actively work to avoid negative energy. I do recognize that healthy fear can protect you from doing things that are overly idiotic, but fear and worry are rarely productive. And they can be paralyzing, which is never productive.
All this circles around to an email I got a little over a week ago saying that my Amylase levels are too high for me to continue taking my PHA drug for the time being. Amylase is an enzyme that helps process carbohydrates. High levels can signal problems with the pancreas, which wouldn’t be that surprising to me, a Diabetic. I have been held off from starting a new drug cycle to take three more Amylase tests, but my number actually got higher every time I took the test, which doesn’t make any sense to me. I have another test in the morning, and I head back to Georgetown the next day so we can try to figure out what’s going on.
I’m hoping this isn’t the end of the PHA trial for me; it’s been nearly 14 months of stable disease with the drug. I’m also hoping my dosage isn’t dropped, which is a possibility. We know the drug works at 100-percent dosage. We don’t know if it will work at 66-percent, or whatever I could be dropped to. And in the trial, once the dosage is dropped, it can’t be raised again. This is what eventually got me kicked out of the Sutent trial, the first one I participated in at the NIH. Sutent was a great tumor shrinker for me. The problem was it also shrank my white blood cell numbers to unacceptable levels.
I’m somewhat concerned about what’s happening in Tumorville, now that I’ve now been off the drug for almost two weeks. I’m not sure how my schedule will be recalculated, but figure that it will probably change. I’m hoping this doesn’t mean more frequent Georgetown visits, but that’s a possibility as well. Lots of unknowns will become knowns this week. Still, through all of this, fear has not poked its head around the corner. No hole in the pit of my stomach, sleeplessness, lack of appetite (never!). Nothing in my day to day is different, even though big healthcare changes could be coming sooner rather than later. I worked all week in San Diego. I skied for the first time at Snowbasin with Tiffany (Epic). I’m excited to be part of a Deer Valley photo shoot tomorrow.
Maybe something IS wrong with me, with this lack of fear. Maybe that gene really is missing. I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever it is (or isn’t), it has served me well in play and in real life, I don’t intend to start letting fear interfere with my decision-making, my choices, or my life now, that’s for sure. Living fearlessly doesn’t just apply to deciding to launch yourself down (or up) a mountain without a second thought. It also applies to how you deal with the shit that’s thrown your way in real life. Live it like you mean it. Updates to come.