Plastic surgery entailed more removal of Zacchaio's scalp nevus as well as a right eyebrow lift (look out, Hollywood!). Persistent scar tissue in Zacchaio's right eyebrow from his previous surgery had caused some sagging over his eye that Dr. Hoffman believed he could remedy.
Keep defying the odds, my love.
…it has been 9 months since his last seizure.
It has been 12 weeks since Zacchaio’s last ER visit/ICU admission. That’s a record.
Since returning home, Zacchaio has been busy being a flourishing learner. In being a witness to his learning, I believe his brain's comprehension has been the most astonishing. Across the living room we yell, "Zacchaio, go get the block and put it in the box." In pure amazement we watch him crawl to one end of the room to grab a block, then scurry back to the opposite end where the box awaits its deposit. My favorite moment of it all is how proud of himself he is in the end. If only he knew... He's gotta know...
The last 3 months have left us feeling very encouraged, yet it seems as if not much time ever passes before we are handed a reminder of our vulnerability. It has been gratifying and humbling and filled with love.
I remember during our challenging first year with Zacchaio how our family was generously showered with affirmations of faith from all of you in hopes of inspiring strength and optimism. One of the most common declarations was that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. Z's first year not only put us to the test, but also helped us gain an incredible amount of insight into our capability to love, to learn, to accept, and to parent. It felt like we might just be moving into a time in our lives with a little more stability....
Except we weren't.
It has been 14 years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and it has been more than 10 years since she was deemed in remission. Just 7 weeks ago she was diagnosed with Stage IV (terminal) metastatic breast cancer.
Though we have had much practice receiving heartbreaking news over the last 16 months, being experienced didn't make receiving the news any easier. Getting the diagnosis was a bomb thrown into the middle of our already tumultuous lives. I cycled through anger, frustration, and disbelief, just as I had when we were in the thick of it with Zacchaio. I questioned God's decisions of who He burdens with challenges such as cancer, as well as his choice of someone who had already proven victorious against such a lethal opponent... Then I stopped being unproductive and took a self-guided 3-day crash course in mom's condition.
My mom's cancer has spread to most of her bones (except the long bones) and is thankfully not in any other organ or tissue. When looking at the chemical makeup of her cancer, it is estrogen-receptor positive and HER2-negative which is ideal in that the cancer should be receptive to hormone therapy (and hopefully not require chemotherapy) and is slower growing and less aggressive than HER2-positive cancers.
The reality of metastatic breast cancer is that it is terminal; there is no cure, only treatment to prolong life. I suppose it can be alluded to as a chronic illness which leaves the individual always in treatment. Our goal then, is to give my mom the highest quality of life for the longest number of years. My research has led me to conclude that there is a wide spectrum in terms of life expectancy which ranges from 6 months to 15+ years. We're doing everything in our power to be right-winged extremists.
If you’re familiar with Zacchaio’s story, you might remember a time when we opted to use marijuana oil for his seizures when his traditional anti-epilepsy medications failed him. Though my mom's oil is similar to what we gave Zacchaio, her oil has higher concentrations of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) compared to Zacchaio's CBD-rich (non-psychoactive and highly anti-inflammatory) oil. My research led me to discover a number of in vivo (live mice) studies that have showed my mom’s combination of THC and CBD cannabis oil to inhibit gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells, induce death of breast cancer cells, and reduce the potential for metastasis. All of this without the chronic and toxic side effects of traditional cancer treatments. Though politics continue to limit the opportunities for cannabis oil use in human trials, I came across much anecdotal evidence of its miraculous healing properties. The testimonials are inspiring, to say the least, with many given no more than 6 months to live yet still living years later with baffled oncologists. Some even went into remission, a word never used for an individual deemed terminal.
That’s not to say that the oil road hasn’t been difficult. There have been good days and hard days. There were days when she slept for 20 hours in a 24-hour period and there were days when she didn’t know up from down. There was an extended period of time when my mom appeared to be a mere shell of her original self. The whole family was frightened. Now, however, 7 weeks after the start of her oil regimen, her fire appears rekindled and her energy restored. We're all eager to see what next month's scans look like compared to April's. As thankful as we are that the oil has improved her quality of life, we're obviously praying that it is having anti-tumor effects as well.