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Living in the Moment

What a week it’s been (last week, that is)! Celebrating Dad’s 58th birthday with a relaxing cruise to the hot pools on lake Rotoiti, then heading up to Waihi beach for the great event of the year; Hannah and Charles’s wedding. I can safely say that much fun and jollity was had by all, and I think for the first time in quite some time, we were able to forget life’s troubles just for a day, and to just be present in the moment. As a bridesmaid, I distinctly remember standing there on the beach after walking down the aisle, with the ocean at my back and the radiant faces of beloved friends and family beaming with joy in front of me. The gentle warmth of the golden autumn sun, combined with the, salty sea breeze and picture-perfect beach scene took hold of my senses, and I felt like, for the briefest moment in time, all of life’s troubles melted away, and everything was as it should be. Then I saw my sister and father walking arm-in-arm towards us, and emotion washed over me like an echo of the waves at my back, and I wondered if anything could ever feel more perfect.

The perfect, heart-melting moment.

Cuties being cute. Page-boy and flower girl.

Happy family on a boat.

All the heart-eyes for this one.

Bath time for cuties! Best hot pools ever, by the way.

Back to the present. Cold, hard reality bites again. Unavoidable, uncaring, unforgiving reality. Feeling like battle-weary soldiers teetering on the precipice of despair, once again, we found ourselves in the waiting room of Dad's oncologist's office, about to receive the results of the latest CT scan. Dad was certain that the results would not be good, based on how he had been feeling since the last scan. No longer able to tolerate the FOLFOX chemo regimen, he was now relying solely on Keytruda immunotherapy, the effectiveness of which the oncologist was not convinced about. Prepared for the worst, we were rather relieved to hear that the tumours had grown "only a little". But growth is still progression, which, in the cancer world, means definitely not good at all. So, what were the options going forward then? Since continuing with FOLFOX was clearly not an option, Dad could make the switch to another chemo drug, FOLFIRI, but this would likely only buy him a few extra months, as he hadn't shown a sustained response to chemo so far. The other option was to take a shot at the new immunotherapy drug that Dad mentioned in the last blog post; another monoclonal antibody similar to Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) that goes by the unpronounceable name Ipilimumab (let’s call it Ipi). It works in a similar way to Pembro in that it downregulates the immune system by switching off an inhibitory mechanism that normally prevents the immune system from attacking cancer cells. Because it acts on a different immune checkpoint than Pembro, this should expand the range of antigen-producing cancer cells that can be destroyed by the immune system. Ongoing studies have shown promise for patients with Dad’s type of cancer when combined with PD-1 inhibitors (like Pembro), though the oncologist estimated that in Dad’s case the likelihood of success was only about 15%, due to the fact that Dad had not shown any significant response to the Pembro. Furthermore, the use of Ipi is associated with significantly higher risk of adverse reactions than Pembro. Despite these odds and the risks involved, it was clear to everyone in the room that day that the only real option worth pursuing was to take the plunge and give this new drug our best shot.

Yesterday, Dad received his first dose (1 of 4) of Ipi, and is so far feeling ok. Apprehension of adverse effects are now at the forefront of our minds, and the future seems more uncertain now than every before. We anxiously await what lies around the next corner, praying that we may catch a glimpse of the hope that we have been longing for for so long. Only God knows our future, and we are comforted in the knowledge that he holds all of our futures in the palm of His hand. His will be done.

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.

Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.

A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

How much can you lose? How much can you win?”

- Dr Seuss

Much love to all,



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