Honey, They Shrunk My Tumor!

16 03 2011

How ironic, how fitting that this piece, Hope Returns, by Marnie Leonard Fender, will be one of the Silent Auction items at the bowling benefit Friday night. Marnie is not only one of my very best friends and a fellow HHS Class of '86 grad, but also a celebrated and decorated artist. (It's all I can do not to bid on it myself!)

I had an appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Dana Zakalik, this past Monday, 11 a.m. Don was by my side. We sat in the waiting room for nearly two hours, as they were running behind schedule. And I sobbed the whole time. I couldn’t help myself.

I tried to stop. A nurse came out and handed me my own personal box of tissues. I used them. I kept crying.

There was this beautiful, terrible visual that kept running through my head that I just couldn’t banish. It was of the Sunday before last, when Theo and I attended Frog Watch, USA at the Detroit Zoo. The day was chilly, but sunny and bright, clear blue skies stretched from one end to the other. As he and I walked the path between buildings, he reached up and clasped his hand in mine.

He had no idea just how adorable he was at that moment. His down-filled winter coat is the color of Christmas, and he was wearing his favorite mittens — the ones Grandma Neilson had made for him, in safety orange, just as he had requested. There we were, walking from the Amphibian House en route to the Butterfly Garden, Theo chattering away about frogs and toads and how he hoped to see a hummingbird.

I looked at him at that moment and I thought to myself, “He is so innocent. He has no idea what’s going on inside Mommy, how perilously close I could be to leaving him, despite how desperately I want to stay with him.”

He knows as much about what’s going on as a five-year-old can. He knows Mommy has to go to the hospital pretty often and that sometimes, I don’t feel well and I have to take a nap or go to bed very early. But he also sees that, for the most part, I’m every bit the Mommy I’ve ever been. The one who picks him up from school, speaks to his class about Amphibians, curls up in bed with him to read a book before lights out.

It was that picture of that moment at the Zoo that triggered my non-stop tears in the waiting room. I couldn’t push that image of Theo out of my mind’s eye. I was consumed by his innocence, my heart breaking at the thought of leaving him too soon, of the pain that it would cause him.

Monday’s appointment would be the first time Dr. Zakalik had seen me in the Examining Room since that day back in early January when I came in with “the lump” I’d found squeezed between my left breast implant and fake, reconstructed nipple. I have seen her in the Infusion Center — she stops by. And I’ve seen members of her team. But this was the first time we’d met behind closed doors since January 10.

She pulled up my shirt, had me lean back, stretched a pair of examination gloves on over her hands, and felt my breasts. She had a quizzical expression on her face as she returned to her stool. She looked at her computer, then started flipping through my chart.

“Did Dr. Dekhne (my breast care surgeon) remove that lump?” she asked me. “Wasn’t that just a core biopsy you had?”

At first, I panicked, as the horrible thought that she might have forgotten a couple of the details of my case flashed through my head. But that’s not at all like Dr. Zakalik. She is nothing short of a marvel.

That’s when I realized what she was really asking me. Why she was so perplexed. Taken aback.

At the exact same moment, she looked back at me, and a smile spread across her face. “Wait a minute, Missy! Lean back on that examining table again!”

Dr. Z. pulled on her examination gloves once more, and felt my left breast.

When I saw her in January, the lump that had brought us in to the office was rock hard and the size of a large shooter marble. Within 10 days, I felt two smaller lumps starting on the other side of my nipple –each about the size of a baby fingertip. That’s how fast this aggressive form of genetic cancer spreads.

Today, this day, March 14, 2011, the two small lumps were gone and she had trouble finding the big one that had brought me here in the first place just two months ago! “It’s not only a great deal smaller,” she said,” but it’s also a lot softer.”

This physical exam indicates that the chemo is kicking butt. WE ARE KICKING CANCER IN THE ASS! After just two rounds of chemo — 8 treatments — this kind of progress was completely unexpected.

Dr. Z. then listened to my lungs, resting her cold stethoscope on five different places on my back. I breathed in deeply, then out, repeat. Her words? “Clear as a bell.” My lungs — both of which had showed cancer on the initial scans — sounded GREAT!

What does this mean? Well, though it’s just the physical exam of my progress, it is GREAT news! It means we are headed in the right direction, that the chemo cocktail I’m on is doing its job! To verify what appears to be amazing progress, I will have a full body scan the week of March 28, the first one since before I started chemo Feb. 1.

I will be hanging on the edge of my seat for those results, as it will be a true picture — literally and figuratively — of just how much my cancer has receded. But Don and I — all of us, friends, family — we are THRILLED by this news!

Along with that, Dr. Z. asked me how I was feeling, overall. This is another very important piece of the puzzle.

I told her the truth. I am feeling GREAT! Do I have my moments when I’m not feeling so hot? Of course. Chemo is no picnic. But I am astounded at the amount of energy I have once the initial side-effects of the infusions wear off. I do have to sleep more at night — I’m going to bed with Theo around 9 p.m. And I do need a nap in the afternoon.

But, oh, as Dr. Suess would say, the things I can do!!!!!! Race my kid to the backyard playscape, go to Mickey D’s with Don and Theo and wonder which toy Theo’s going to get in his Happy Meal, go for a walk and breathe in fresh, beautiful air, turn in circles, close my eyes, feel the sun shine on my face. Wriggle my toes in the sand, talk to an astronaut from space, learn how to make (and eat!) the world’s best guacamole dip, sit in a hot tub and take in the wonder of the stars, the bright light of Venus. Above all, love love love my family, friends, my life.

We celebrated the news in a way that only Don, Theo and I can. After we picked Theo up from school Monday afternoon, we headed straight for the House of Pets in Garden City. How I love that place! And wouldn’t you know it, they had three healthy red-eyed tree frogs — just in! We had been waiting for a few months to get our hands on these beauties! The ones that had come in over the winter weren’t looking very healthy. So, we waited.

What are the chances that on this day, at this moment, there they’d be? We took two of them home. A really big one that I named Goliath. I call him Golly for short — as in golly, are you ever big! And a smaller one that I’ve decided to call Red. They are delightful and intriguing and such a wonder of God’s creation.

We did the Mickey D’s drive-thru on the way home for Don and Theo. No appetite for me. But…a craving for a gigantic slurpee. So, Don did a second drive-thru, Burger King — and got me a large frozen Coke. Such special treatment. Such a special guy. Such a great way to end a great day, Theo and Don munching on chicken nuggets, me happily slurping my frozen Coke. And signs of Spring, of Hope, all around us.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson




61 responses

16 03 2011
Bill Abernethy

Wonderful news! Makes my day.

16 03 2011

Amy, I am so thrilled for you. I think of you every day. Your courage is a true inspiration to me. Sending so many hugs and lots of love! Amy

16 03 2011

Now I’m sobbing with my own box of Kleenex. Thanks for sharing your good news.

16 03 2011
Ken Peters

Your good day has made our good day.

16 03 2011
Linda Stanislawski

wonderful, wonderful news!

16 03 2011
KK Santini

just delighted. to the core!!

16 03 2011
Sandy K

Amazing Amy! That’s SO awesome! Praise God! You are doing such a great job staying strong for your family…it’s almost unbelievable to me. And it sounds like the folks at Beaumont are incredible. By the way…thanks for sharing all of this with us. You are a very gifted writer and it’s so enjoyable to read this.

16 03 2011
Roni Kinsella

Yep, me too…sobbing, nose dripping…Thanks for sharing all the details. You are amazing!

16 03 2011
Dona Levinson

With tears streaming down my cheeks I want to tell you how very happy I am to hear this! Yayyyyy!!! I look forward to seeing you on Friday! XOXO

16 03 2011
Lynn Shuck

Fantastic!, she writes with joyful tears in her eyes for this friend of a friend who she has never met.

16 03 2011
Carol P

How Awesome! You sooo deserve this good news! Prayers always! 🙂

16 03 2011

What wonderful news!!!!! That is fantastic, and I can’t wait to one day read “it is now GONE!!!” 🙂

16 03 2011
brian Murphy

What a great piece of writing! You celebrate hope, Spring, life. I am breathing more deeply because of you, Amy.

16 03 2011
Buffy Kahl

What AMAZING and wonderful news. You are fighting this big fight and winning! Congratulations on such great and well deserved news.

16 03 2011

You go Amy!!! Show that darn cancer who is boss!!!
You just made my day ;o)

16 03 2011

I am soo happy to hear this news. Fingers crossed that the pet scan holds great news for you also.

16 03 2011
Janice Domanski

Pure joy!!! Even as the tears run down my face!! You can really pull your readers into experiencing every sight and sound and emotion. Love you, girl!! And your sister Julie!!

16 03 2011

Such wonderful news! Yeah! I’m so happy for you!

16 03 2011
lucy (meau's friend)

i don’t get to “tune in” every day—but sure am glad i checked the post today. God has been so gracious to you, and thank you for sharing your victories with us!

16 03 2011

Amy, such AWESOME news! And I just can’t hardly believe what a great WRITER you are!!! I know I’ve said it before, but it just blows me away. A gift, sure, but lots and lots of practice too I’m guessing. It’s like writing is your adult version of Monopoly when you were a kid. Remember when you were caught once up in Indian River without the game and you recreated the entire board from memory? Whoa.

16 03 2011
Jen Murray

Loved your post! Hope to meet the tree frogs soon!xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

16 03 2011

As a fellow cancer survivor, I celebrate this news with you! I have been following your blog for a couple months. I was diagnosed at 34 w/ lymphoma when my boys were 1 & 2. Your story inspires me with each post!

16 03 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

HAPPY TEARS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

16 03 2011
John Eckardt

Good news, Amy. Hope to hear better news later. Tell Theo and Don I said HI.

16 03 2011
Kris & Bill

We are delighted with your fabulous news!

16 03 2011
Laurie Horn

That is the most wonderful news, Amy!!! So happy for you, Don & Theo! Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us.

16 03 2011
Nicole Rollet

GOD IS GOOD!!!!Love you, so happy to hear the wonderful news!! I just knew that prayer last night went straight to the top!! Heehee…hugs n kisses

16 03 2011

OMG…..that is the BEST news ever and you have such a way of telling it. God bless you, Don and Theo. Those frogs don’t know how lucky they are….yet!

16 03 2011

Awesome, wonderful, fantastic, amazing–and beautifully told. I’m so incredibly happy!! Looking forward to watching little Theo so you and Don can enjoy each other to the fullest!

16 03 2011

Oh my – I have so much joy spilling out of my heart for you – tears of happiness. You are such an uplifting spirit and an inspiriation to us all. You make me want to go out and celebrate life and scream yea GOD is good. You go girl!!!

16 03 2011
Sharon L-S

Awesome news! Tears of Joy. Keep playing it forward.
Hugs and prayers

16 03 2011
Aunt Doris

Teriffic writeup, SUPER news. God is so good! He does hear our prayers. And there are hundreds of them going up! I say it again through happy tears:God is so Good! Love to you, Amy, and to Don and to Theo. XXXOOO Aunt Doris

16 03 2011
Maija Kibens

Amy, this is so awesome!! Perfect for this glorious spring like day. Hugs from Bob & me & lots of doggie kisses from Casey!

16 03 2011
Monica Lesnau

Tears of joy! I bet that Frozen Coke tasted amazing! Much love to you and yours!

16 03 2011
Amy Youngblood

I don’t even really know you and I just knew the news would be good. I just have this really good feeling that it will just keep coming. Hang in there and I hope to try and stop by for the “silent auction” Friday, probably won’t bowl though (:

16 03 2011

GOLLY, Amy! You’re the David in this fight! (((happy hugs and a little dance!)))

16 03 2011

Such great news! Will miss seeing you tomorrow! Enjoy your weekend!

16 03 2011

That is spectacular news!!! Congratulations!

16 03 2011
Carol Phillips


I am overjoyed, but not surprised. We serve a great God who loves to do God-size things. I will share it with the Tuesday Bible Study group! How great that you have blogged about all of it and are fufilling Deuteronomy 4:9 —
“Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live. And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”

16 03 2011
Jennifer Fink

I am so thrilled for you!

16 03 2011
Deborah Ann Peters

Wonderful news!!!!! So happy for you and your family.

16 03 2011
Sharon (Hudson) Frisch

Praise the Lord, Amy!! So happy to hear your great news and I’m praying for even better news after your full body scan in a couple of weeks.

16 03 2011
MFA Mama

YES!!!!! That’s excellent news. I’m so happy for you!

16 03 2011

Keep movin’ in the RIGHT direction !!! So happy you and Don and Theo have reason to celebrate.

16 03 2011
Jennifer Wolf

Read it. Cried. Thrilled. Wow. Yay God! Love you.


16 03 2011
Kimberly Brown

Amy….such wonderful news!! You and your wonderful family are an inspiration…keep up the good fight my dear, it sound like you are going to win!!!!! YAY!!!..

16 03 2011
Lynn collard

Celebrate Life and every baby step forward to kicking cancer’s butt! I am so happy to hear happy news for you! Garden City’s “Big Cats For A Cure” Relay team is cheering you on!!!

16 03 2011
Beth Johnson

*wipes eyes* That is such awesome news.

I have a 4.5 year old son. I totally relate to those moments. That would be the part that scared me most, too.

Keep on keepin’ on, Amy.

16 03 2011
Beth Z

I am so glad to hear this news! I have been following your blog for several weeks now, and feel as if I know you and am fighting the battle with you! (Your cousin-in-law Lisa told me to sign up on your blog to help get you published. I have been friends w/Lisa for 20+ years, and was at BFAC last September for her first time down the runway, so we saw you there too!).
I have a 3 year old daughter, so I also understand the moment(s) you describe with your son. They are not only the joy and big love of our lives, but also the therapy to keep us going every day.
I am rooting for you, as are many others from what I read on your blog! Keep the faith Amy! I am so proud of Lisa and her strength, and from what I read here, you are one strong cookie too! Sending you healing thoughts!

16 03 2011
Pam Spencer

Praising God for you! 🙂

16 03 2011
Ken and Gay

Dearest Amy, We are delighted beyond words to hear the latest report!!! God is good and His mercy is everlasting!!! We will be in Midland Fri. but wishing you a lot of fun and great success at the Bowling Fundraiser and Silent Auction!!

17 03 2011
Jennifer Bopp Stegbauer

Amy, not only is this fantastic news for you and your family but for all other breast cancer gene patients. You are providing amazing evidence that the Parp Inhibitor should be made available to all people with this type of cancer. You are a loving person, mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc. and now also clinical evidence! Yeah!

17 03 2011

That is such great news!!! God is good! Your courage is amazing and I pray all these things will will get you through this. I’m rooting for you and I’m praying for you!

17 03 2011
Julie brown Boivin

Amy, I’m Carrie’s sister, she was telling me how awesome your blog is and wow! She was right! I’ll keep you in my prayers that your scan turns out as great as you hope. Julie

17 03 2011


17 03 2011
susan mettert

Way to go!

17 03 2011
Pam Richards

Bravo, bravo, Amy! I am laughing and crying with you. You are SUCH a mom and I salute you. You are in my every prayer for complete healing now FOR GOOD. God bless you!

17 03 2011
Rebecca @ Unexplained X2

I’ve been following along for just a month and this news is incredible. The paragraph about the things you can do now is amazing…I’m so happy for you and your family right now.

18 03 2011
Helene Rabinowitz

To repeat myself AGAIN….you are a blessing. Your gift of communicating so beautifully through your writing; to reach into the hearts and minds of others; to give of yourself so selflessly, well, I could go on but I don’t want to be verbose. Love to you and Don and Theo

18 03 2011
Sunny Stripes-O'Connor

Wow, you guys did play A LOT of Monopoly! I just got the board out and quizzed Dan, and he nearly got them all right! Amy, we are so thrilled with your news. Words (our words, that is) cannot explain. What a happy, happy day this is!

18 03 2011
Sarah Zowada

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!!! Wonderful news, well told!! 😉

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