Everyone Loves a Good Comeback Story

Week 4-5 of treatment has brought about some excitement. I’m riding the wave of what I would call an upswing.

If you just want a quick “how is chemo going?” you can scroll down to item #4 the bottom. I have a feeling that this one might be a novel but too many great moments went down:

1.) Bryant University’s Class of 2015 Commencement:

The week leading up to commencement is interesting, calm and mildly nerve wracking all at the same time. We clear our calendars and take no appointments (except emergencies). Our front desk staff diligently works with Academic Records as grades pour in to print degree audits for every single senior. Us, the advisors, pick our favorite Pandora stations and hunker down in our offices reviewing every degree audit line by line to ensure all degree components are met. Every ‘T’ crossed and every ‘I’ dotted. Normally I keep my Pandora pretty vanilla for office purposes, Indie-Singer Songwriter perhaps, but not this time. Oh no- to get through this week I needed coffee and some serious hip hop jams. Childish Gambino and Atmosphere amongst others put me in the zone, seniors got certified, no mistakes (that I know of) were found, and I could go home relieved.

The real excitement took place on commencement day. I knew it would be a proud day to see these students that have evolved personally and academically. What I didn’t anticipate was crying about seven goddamn times! One of my advisees, Emily, was the first to open the floodgates by handing me a gift before she lined up for the procession:


There is a backstory to this but in a nutshell Emily has been telling me for two straight years that on her graduation day she would give me me a bouquet of flowers made of her statistics homework because the course gave her (and subsequently me) so much grief. She delivered on that promise and I LOST IT. Emily is just one of many students that day for whom I was sad to see go.

To put it in perspective for the purposes of this blog, I’ve known this particular class of students for as long as I have been sick. Through surgeries, hospitalizations, and physically/mentally taxing treatment plans I have balanced holding it together to serve this student population to the best of my ability. One must question occasionally, am I still able to do this job well in the midst of ongoing life challenges? (My director is probably banging his head against his desk reading this because he assures me, almost daily, that I am doing good work.) But for the students who may or may not know what is going on in regard to my health, it is beyond reassuring to have moments like this where you know that against all odds you made a meaningful impact in the job that you do, sick or otherwise. This gesture held many dimensions of meaning for me personally and professionally.

2.) Sara’s Bachelorette Party:

After a box of Kleenex and a beautiful commencement ceremony I headed over to Foxwoods Casino for my cousin’s bachelorette party! One of the highlights of my weekend. We had a super hilarious group of girls and despite not feeling my best around 11pm I was still able to hang for a good portion of the night before heading back to the hotel early.

Here she is, the beautiful bride to be:


As you may know I have a VERY small family so Sara is one of my few cousins and she means the world to me. It seems like yesterday that we were chasing eachother around my grandparent’s basement at Hanukkah parties as my brother taunted her for her admirable aspirations of someday operating a school bus (spoiler alert: she became a teacher sooo…close enough). Now as an adult, Sara is still the same amazing person with a gigantic heart of gold. It is truly an honor to share these moments and to celebrate one of the most supportive and loving people in my life.

Any and all other details of the bachelorette party remain at Foxwoods, sorry folks.

3.) Prevention Magazine:

Recently, a childhood friend approached me about writing a story about what it is like to be on a clinical trial that she would pitch to Prevention. The talented Kristen Domonell did a wonderful job! She certainly maintained the integrity of my personal story and provided a balanced viewpoint. It is an “as told to” style so it was written by Kristen but told from my perspective. You can check it out here: http://www.prevention.com/health/cancer-clinical-trial

Having this published made me pretty giddy. Storytelling creates community and understanding! I hope by putting this story out there at least one other reader could relate.

4.) Chemo Update:

I just finished my first full cycle and started a 2nd last Friday. Just as I have been reporting, I am tolerating this treatment well. I’m still gorging myself with food and sleeping well. The only minor side effects that I’m noticing are occasional nosebleeds (result of Avastin) and I’m finding more hair in my brush and sink than before. The hair loss isn’t remotely noticeable to anyone else just yet but it’s definitely starting.

This past infusion I was accompanied by the lovely, witty, Stacey Goldman! We were fortunate (again) to get a private room with a bed AND a recliner. As a result, Stack and I spent our time there watching bad daytime tv and taking nappies.


We did tack on an extra hour to treatment because my port was for lack of a scientific term, “gunked up”. The heparin flush went through but my nurse couldn’t get a blood return so they had to give me tPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator). Think of my port as a clogged sink and tPA as the ‘Drano’ equivalent and there you have it. Once the tPA did its job we were able to get a blood return and get back to business.

While we were there we received a positive update from the infamous Sheila, nurse navigator. I have weekly blood tests and she was excited to share with me the results of the CA-125 tumor marker. So excited in fact, she texted my results followed by: “I told Rosa to tell you what your tumor marker was but I’m just so excited about it I’m texting you now…She’s going to tell you so act surprised!”

My CA-125 is currently 2190. Which if you recall from other entries about the CA-125 is not actually good at all. A safe or preferred CA-125 is generally under 21 (or 35 depending on the hospital). Obviously, mine is a skosh higher than 21. What makes this news exciting is that when I started this treatment 3 weeks prior to the blood test, it was over 4000. This means in a single cycle my tumor marker has reduced by about 50%. HOLY SHIT. Something is working. I hope I don’t eat my words later but honestly, I just have strong positive feelings about this.

Naturally, to celebrate Stack and I indulged in the first Eskimo King visit of the year. Lavender soft serve in a waffle cone with rainbow sprinkles. I’m pretty sure in the midst of getting it all over my face and clothes like a child, it also seeped into my soul and made it smile.


Cheers to continued improved health, happiness, and well-being!