Author: travelabrodge

I'm about to leave the stable working world to take on a life of nomadic adventure.

There It Went

As a year that is despised by most ends and a new one begins, countdowns and resolutions have taken over the internet. I have been guilty in the past of naming years – “2014 Year of Travel” and “2016 Year of Possibility” (at the time I didn’t think possibility would turn so negative) – but this next year I will not name. I will just let 2017 be whatever it decides to be as it happens, because living in the moment is one of the best lessons I can take away from this whole adventure. As for a recap of the past year, I don’t think anyone needs another rambling post from me about what ending my trip, dealing with cancer, getting a job, and moving back to New York City was like. I don’t even know if I could write that post. Suffice it to say that I did not expect last year to be what it was at all, and it has not been easy on me. But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about that time three years ago when I started this blog. My first official post was on January 30, 2014, but in the month leading up to that first post I had already told everyone in my life of my grand plan, including my job, and started preparing for my departure. I promised myself that I would document it all, from the planning stages to every location to my eventual return, whenever or if-ever I did return. From that day until now I have been halfway around the world and back, I have boarded two one way flights out of the United States and two unexpected one way flights back, and I have found myself settled again in a place I never would have predicted when I started this journey three years ago.

I started TravelAbrodge to document my Round the World trip. Then I continued it to document my Round the Central America turned Life in Guatemala time. And then I used it when I didn’t know any better way to update everyone on my experience with a sarcoma surgery. It has been one hell of a ride.

But some part of me always knew that ride would end. That one day, my TravelAbrodge would be a part of my past, and I would re-enter the stable working world. My blog would have to end with it.

Now that the time is here, it’s been hard for me to actually shut it down. Not only is it a clear sign of the drastic change that has occurred in my life – from a nomad who could take off on a moment’s notice to a project manager who reports to an office 5 days a week – but it is something I grew to depend on in a way. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I would always take time to sit down and write about it. Some posts were short and some were way too long, some were factual and some were deeply introspective, but all were a part of me.

I have enjoyed sharing these parts of me with you. My experiences, my thoughts, my challenges, my elations. And I thank you – truly and sincerely thank you – for reading along. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did.

And with that, I say farewell to the blogosphere. I know I will have many more adventures and miss writing about them here, but they are for another time and place. This story is complete.

Adios my friends.

– Kristen, aka Brodge

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I Got a Job, and I’m Back in the Working World

I said in my last post that my return to the working world would be a two-part story. In reality it could probably be many more parts, but in my mind there were two major factors that needed to be addressed regarding the transition from full-time traveler back to full-time worker. Part 1, discussed in the previous post, was about how my trip did not hinder my job search but helped it. Part 2 is about what it’s like to go back to a 9-6 life.

While I was on the road it was nearly impossible to imagine returning to a desk. The morning commute was something I scoffed at; I felt like I had escaped the rat race and found life’s true meaning. I don’t take that back at all, I did discover many things that I deemed meaningful during my travels, and one of those happened to be my work ethic. In order to reach that point I did something I think was very valuable: I kept going past my initial timeline. If I had returned to work after that first year I probably would have felt like I’d missed out on something. Continuing on the way I did – ultimate flexibility that led to an expat life – allowed me to feel like I’d satisfied my nomadic cravings and was ready to return to that “real world” I’d hated referencing as such. (My travel world was just as real as my working world, what makes one deserve that title more than the other? Cultural norms, I suppose.)

By the time I came back to the U.S. I knew I was ready to go back to work – back to a desk, a routine, and hopefully a career. These were things I had never completely sworn off but rather had taken a break from. I knew one day I would have to choose between my two lives – the eternal nomad or the successful careerwoman – and after two years away I realized that I was ready to put my nomadic life in the past, to be that person who had lived the dream and came back to pursue professional goals.

After so much time living according to whim, I expected it to be a very tough transition. In reality, I was so ready to go back to work that I threw myself into it. 10 hour days felt like 2 hours, and empty weekends felt like biding my time until Monday when I would be productive again. It didn’t hurt that my first task was opening a bar in an extremely accelerated schedule.

Now that I am past that initial rush, I am happy to report that, while I do fondly reminisce about my travels from time to time, I do not wish to go back to them. I have returned to that rat race, that desk life, that 9-6 schedule, that “real world,” and I am completely okay with it. I guess that’s the thing about pursuing your dreams – when you leave it all out there, there’s no wrong decision, and even those choices that may surprise you, like returning to an old way of life, end up being right where you’re supposed to be. Because after doing a trip like I did you know yourself too well to let yourself go the wrong way. So work it is, and hopefully the beginning of a long, successful career.

I Got a Job, and My Trip Helped it Happen

October 13th I started a new job. I’ve been meaning to write about this for the past month, but a) didn’t know which route to take, and b) was way too busy to get my thoughts straight. Now that it’s been over a month and things are finally settling down a bit, I have decided this will be a two-part post. This is Part 1.

Last weekend a friend asked me, “How did you get a job?” Not that I’m unqualified, just that I have been out of the typical workforce for two and a half years, and that sizable resume gap seems like it would be a huge hindrance to getting back into the professional world. This is actually a question I’ve heard a lot from people leaving work to travel as well, whether the experience of travel outweighs the “seeming irresponsibility” of being out of work for so long.

Let me be living proof to you all: you can leave your career for over two years and have no problem getting a job when you’re ready for it again. In fact, it may help you land an even better job for you than you expected to find, as happened for me.

Over the summer I updated my resume, and instead of shying away from the past two years I decided to highlight them. Next to my “Work Experience” section I added a “Life Experience” section. Formatted in the same way my job listings were, it made my trip into a professionally-digestible asset.

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I got interviews at the first two jobs I applied for. Three rounds at each. The first one was an international architecture firm that wanted someone to help with their markets in South America and Japan, but they didn’t seem to care much about my experience in either. In fact they didn’t seem to notice that I’d even taken time to travel. They were focused solely on my work experience before I left, and for some reason that actually bothered me. My trip was a huge part of my life, and would help with this job opportunity, but they acted like it never happened.

This is also an important thing to highlight for anyone worried about being interviewed post-travels: you are also interviewing them. I found I was annoyed that something so important to me had been so blatantly ignored. Just because a place has decided you are worth talking to doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. Don’t just take a job because you’re relieved someone is taking a chance on you, take a job that wants all of you – professional and travel version – there.

The second job I interviewed with not only appreciated my travels, but partially hired me because of them. Also an international firm, they focus on hospitality design, and were in need of a Project Manager to help open a new mezcal bar. Now my experience working at Cafe No Se was invaluable to my being hired. The combination of my work experience before and during my time abroad combined perfectly into a role at this fantastic firm, not to mention the personality match that both sides sensed.

I am happy to say that my job search ended there. I know, some of you probably hate me for how easy that was, but when it’s right it’s right. And my new role at this incredible restaurant, bar, hotel, retail, and residential design firm is very right.

Moral of the story: taking time off to travel will never hinder anything in your life, it will only enhance everything, down to finding the perfect next career move.

I Can Run Again

I went for run today. For the first time since Tristen popped out to say hello, I jogged along for 15 minutes with no pain.

I repeat: with. no. pain.

In my prior life, a 15-minute run would not make me feel very good. It would mean I was feeling lazy that day, or I’d had a few too many glasses of wine the night before. But in my new cancer-surgery-recovery life, a 15-minute run is a huge milestone. It’s a sign that things have improved. It’s a sign that I am inching ever closer to a return to my normal life.

As my feet moved along with beat of the music, my mind began to clear. I had forgotten how good exercise was for the spirit and the body, and just how much I had missed being active. Which is probably why, when my short run ended, I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness. Here I was, one day shy of 13 weeks after a major surgery, having just completed my first step towards the more active life that I was used to, and I was crying. What the fuck?

The only explanation I can think of is that for every happy step I take up the recovery ladder, I come face to face with a reminder of what just happened. I am only excited by this little activity because I wasn’t able to do so much for so long. And now that it’s becoming possible again, it’s like the weight of what I’ve gone through, the things that I say I am fine about, push back even stronger.

But I won’t let that discourage me. Because as I ran, proudly sporting my “JOIN THE BATTLE” Cycle for Survival shirt, I felt hopeful. I felt an elation that only physical activity can give me, I felt like I’d recovered a part of myself, and, perhaps most importantly, I felt like I’d overcome a bad stroke of luck that will in the end make me an even stronger version of me. And that is the feeling that will win in the end.

Talking About My Cancer, and The Decision it Led Me To

Since I got to NYC I have spent a lot of time talking about my cancer diagnosis. I thought I was escaping the focus on my medical adventure when I left Vermont, but I should have known it would be impossible to escape. I don’t blame anyone for this and don’t discourage anyone from continuing the conversation, it was just not what I expected.

There are a few reasons for this. First was the fact that I hadn’t seen anyone since the surgery happened; every update was a medical recap. And second was the Cycle for Survival event. I can’t say enough how wonderful it was to be there, but an interesting side story was the light in which my experience was put. I was “a survivor.” I had been diagnosed with rare cancer – monophasic synovial sarcoma – and had been treated – surgery – and was now cancer-free.

During the whole process we talked about Tristen as a sarcoma, not as a cancer. These things are one in the same: sarcoma by definition is a cancerous tumor. But “sarcoma” is not as commonly known as “cancer,” so outside of the doctors, the c word has become more prevalent. That doesn’t change the fact that I still feel uncomfortable using that word. As Dr. Kalanithi put it, “there’s cancer, and then there’s CANCER.” Sometimes I feel like a cheat: I didn’t have CANCER, I didn’t have to go through radiation or chemotherapy, I didn’t have a years-long battle that took its toll on my body and my emotions… Or did I?

The whole time I’ve been thinking of my sarcoma as a quick process – diagnosis, surgery, 4-6 weeks healing, and back to normal life – when in reality it’s not. I started feeling the pain 10 years ago. Even though I didn’t know it was a tumor growing in my muscle, agitating a nerve once in a while that stabbed me in my side, that’s exactly what it was. I had already been dealing with a sarcoma for a decade.

“How did you discover you had a sarcoma?” I hadn’t even thought this would be a question because he popped out and said hi to the world. I was lucky he did. Some sarcomas don’t get discovered until the cancer has already spread, and if I had waited any longer its possible mine would have spread too. I was lucky he outgrew my muscle. I was lucky it was still contained.

And then I had surgery. 4-6 weeks healing was just for the incision and the mesh. The healing for the muscles that had large chunks removed is more like a year. And the close watch to make sure it doesn’t come back will continue forever. As my doctor pointed out to me on my last visit, this will affect me for the rest of my life. My battle with cancer may not be the typical struggle, it may be more of a passive watch, but it is not over.

I had cancer. I’m now cancer-free. I could not be cancer-free at any moment. At the same spot, at a different spot, or even a different cancer. I may be doing genetic testing to find out how susceptible I am to other cancers.

So my thinking has shifted. I have realized just how much a diagnosis like this resurfaces in even the most minimal ways (medical history forms and health plan enrollment are my enemies). And I have realized that I need to be responsible medically. This is not something that I can forget about, ignore and hope everything will turn out okay. For two years I have to be closely watched, and then it eases up a bit to every year. For 3-5 years I’m most at risk for it coming back, and then it’s a forever maybe. So for 2-5 years, I want to be near my doctors. I know there are great doctors all over the place, but I like the ones I have at DHMC. They know me, they explain things to me perfectly, they answer my phone calls and see me as soon as anything comes up.

So now, my sarcoma has decided one more thing: I am moving to New York City. I was back and forth between NYC and SF since my return to the US, another decision my sarcoma forced, but my medical needs tipped the scale. Who knows how many more times this will happen in the future? All I do know is that even though Tristen is physically gone, he will somehow be with me for the rest of my life.

So Long TravelAbrodge-Tristen-Hair

When I was 17 I donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love. I had always had long hair and knew I had plenty to donate, so, prompted by the suggestion of a friend that we do it together, I sent in my long locks to help a kid who had lost their hair to cancer treatments.

12 years later, I found myself thinking that I was going to lose my hair to cancer treatments. I went through a period when I was really convinced that it had spread beyond the tumor and the only solution would be chemical. I realize that not all chemo results in hair loss, but when you’re still in the questions part of being told you have cancer your mind can’t help but go there. It took me 2.5 years to get hair this long again, and it was all about to be for nothing. So I started wrapping my head around the idea of a hairless me, and for a while a pixie haircut me, and it actually didn’t take long to feel okay about it. It’s just hair, after all.

I didn’t have to go through chemo. The cancer was localized, removed with surgery, and no chemicals were necessary for my recovery process (with the exception of that fun week of oxycodone). But other people still did have to go through chemo. Millions of women around the world have had thoughts like I had, and actually had to go through with it. Suddenly my long hair didn’t seem so great anymore.

So I cut it off. My hair will grow back, fairly quickly, but those women may not have that option. So this time I sent it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths. They, partnered with the American Cancer Society, make real-hair wigs specifically for adult women who have lost their hair in their battle with cancer. I don’t know these women, but I feel like, in some way, they are my kindred, and I want to help them.

That’s not the only reason I cut my hair off. The last time I cut my hair was June 2014. Yes, you read that correctly. Two and a half years ago, the day before I left to travel the world, I cut my hair the shortest I’ve ever had it. It was for maintenance; shorter hair seemed easier to deal with on the road. As my travels continued so did my hair growth. Then when I came home, I was too distracted and uncaring to go for a very necessary trim. So I’ve been carrying around 2.5-years-worth of hair.

My TravelAbrodge hair. My cancer hair.

It’s time for a change. This last phase of my life was simultaneously the most incredible and most difficult so far. From achieving my life’s goal of long-term solo travel to being told I had cancer, my highest highs and lowest lows have happened in the past 2.5 years, while this hair was growing. And now it’s come to an end. So it’s time to move on, start over, and this is just one little way to begin again. Goodbye TravelAbrodge-Tristen-Hair. It’s been quite the journey.

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I Rode in Cycle for Survival’s Times Square Takeover and You Should Too

Friday night I rode in my first Cycle for Survival Times Square Takeover. It was everything.

I heard about Cycle for Survival from my friend who has participated in it for years, first with and then in honor of his fiance, who battled rare cancer. So when he found out about my diagnosis he wasted no time convincing me to come ride with “my people.”

Cycle is an event put on by Equinox and Memorial Sloan Kettering that raises money to fund rare cancer research – 100% of the proceeds are donated to MSK. In 2016, Cycle raised $30 million, and $2 million of that went to sarcomas. Funding research like this is the most effective way we can learn more about these diseases, and in the process take a stand against them. The work being done at MSK is saving lives, and I heard some of those stories first-hand on Friday night.

My doctor was trained at MSK. When she and her Dartmouth colleagues were discussing whether or not to radiate me, she also asked the opinion of her former colleagues at MSK. And when we were reviewing the only metric that attempts to predict my chances of recurrence, it was something that had been developed by doctors at MSK. So you could say I have a connection to what Cycle is all about. Plus when they heard that I was recovering from a sarcoma surgery, I received the nicest card from a dozen people I had never met before sending me good vibes, along with some great Cycle for Survival swag.

My friend was right, I was part of a special community now. One that supports each other, that cheers each other on through the good and the bad, and that understands how it feels to be told you have rare cancer.

I rode with that community in Times Square on Friday. The event was more than a cycling class, it was a party. The energy was high as the instructors led us through group chants and singalongs on our bikes. A band played along with the DJ and dancers moved to the same beat as our legs. It was a struggle to not go all out – I was encouraged against participating in the event since I’m still in the healing phase and technically not supposed to do any very vigorous activity, aka no more than some brisk walking, but there was no way I was not going. So I held back as everyone around me bounced and sprinted, and toward the end had my right foot resting on the bike while my left foot kept the pedals moving. I did what I could my first time around, only 6.5 weeks after surgery, and I would do it again if I could. Just being there with other supporters, seeing what people are doing to help those of us who have been touched by rare cancer, was amazing. Next time, and there will absolutely be a next time, I will be healthy enough to go all out.

Cycle for Survival is one of the best things I’ve done, and I encourage everyone out there to get involved. There are events all across the United States and 2017 registration is open. Please, sign up, and help us beat rare cancers.

6 Weeks Post-Op

Today is 6 weeks since my surgery. Physically, that means I’m healed. Mentally, it means so much more.

My surgeon told me I would be healed in 4-6 weeks. What that means is that tissue has started to incorporate the mesh into my body and the incision is a securely closed scar. It means that I am no long at risk of popping a suture. It means that I can start to resume a normal life.

Start to resume.

It does not mean I am totally back to normal. I am still in a healing process that is beyond the surgery. My muscles are adjusting, my range of motion is increasing, but I am still limited. I can do some warrior yoga poses now and quicken my walking pace, but runs are still 6 more weeks away, as is any attempt at a routine yoga class. Cycling is on hold for now too, as is lifting anything more than 10 lbs. After that 12 week marker I’ll be able to resume more movement as long as it doesn’t require quick, hard action from my right side. Think of someone throwing a ball and saying “think fast!” and having to grab it with my right hand. I can’t do that. Yet.

Which is why I’ve set the personal goal of learning how to play tennis. Tennis is pretty much the antithesis of what I’m supposed to be doing right now, especially since I’m right-handed and the tumor was on my right side, so I think the day I can play tennis is the day I’ll be fully healed. Apparently that is a 9-12 month goal.

I had my last doctors appointments on Thursday (for now). Four appointments in two days, I covered everything from Physical Therapy to a chemo talk with the sarcoma expert to what the eff is the sudden rash that showed up and how to get rid of it. It was exhausting, emotionally draining, and, in the end, wonderful. The odd rash that showed up was a delayed reaction at 5 weeks to the glue – strange to everyone who saw it – and is going away with the strong cream the dermatologist gave me. My PT was thrilled at my range of motion and was as happy to give me some yoga to work on as I was to be able to do some yoga.

The sarcoma expert and I talked about the decision to not have radiation or chemo, why chemo would be the choice in the future but why we should avoid it, and the idea of talking to a familial cancer specialist. Chemo is not as effective on synovial sarcomas as it is on other types of cancers, and it could actually give me a different kind of cancer in the process. It’s not worth it for someone my age who had the surgical results that I had. According to a metric devised by some doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I have an 80-90% chance of staying tumor-free. That is fantastic news. Of course it could always come back, and in more places than just its original home, but at least the odds are in my favor. It’s most likely to recur in the first 3-5 years after surgery, hence the close monitoring. I have a follow-up MRI/CT appointment in January. At this or my follow-up PT appointment, I will see a familial cancer specialist. Since my grandfather also had a sarcoma, it’s possible I have a gene that means I’m more prone to getting cancer. We will discuss genetic testing to see if I have it; if I do, I’ll have to be tested for all kinds of cancers for the rest of my life. I’ll deal with that when I need to.

For now though, I am free. I can leave Vermont, I can get on a plane, I can get a job, I can move on with my life. This is a momentous mental shift. For months I have been waiting – waiting to find out what I had, waiting to schedule a surgery, waiting to heal. Even before the waiting began was the decision to return to the United States to deal with Tristen. Ever since he first appeared 7 months ago, my life has been dominated by Tristen. And now he is gone, really gone, and my life is mine again.

Vermont was the best place to go through all of this. The support from my family has been incredible, the tranquility of the setting perfect for healing, and the doctors and hospital experience at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center the best I could have ever hoped for. And in the grand scheme of life, the three months I spent here dealing with my sarcoma will seem like the blink of an eye. But I will forever be grateful to everyone here. Thank you for getting me through this.

No Radiation

I found out last night that I do not need radiation.

I DO NOT NEED RADIATION!

This is the huge final step I’ve been waiting for. After I reviewed the pathology results with my doctor it sounded like I had a 50/50 chance of radiation. Typically for tumors under 5 cm and clear margins there is no way they would recommend radiation, but for high grade tumors – very aggressive, high rate of multiplication – they usually do recommend radiation. I was facing the possibility of having to make the final decision myself with no clear yes or no from the doctors.

A little background on the radiation factor. Radiation is an x-ray treatment that is targeted at a specific area. The treatment would be 5 weeks, 5 days a week, 15 minutes of radiation a day. While it’s possible to do radiation treatment before or after work, or whatever other activities are going on, it is still a month plus commitment to shooting up your body with harmful rays almost every day. And it was not an option to wait and do it in six months or a year. The radiation had to be done immediately to be effective, so my window was at 6 weeks post-op, when the mesh has healed into my body and the wound safely closed up.

Radiation would be purely preventative; the tumor is gone but just in case a rogue cell went off to find home (Tristen’s cells were poorly differentiated, meaning they didn’t look like where they came from like normal cancer cells do, so it’s possible a few could have felt lost and confused and went to find where they belonged) and was wandering outside the margins, we would zap it with radiation. This would help lower the possibility of Tristen’s younger brother showing up in a few years. However it was still possible he’d show up anyway even with radiation.

Obviously exposing your body to strong x-rays is cause for concern. It could damage the skin, tissue, muscles, organs, and bones in the nearby vicinity. We had to weigh whether the harm would be greater than the help or vice versa. Some people think because I’m young it’s better to keep me away from radiation so it doesn’t have long-term adverse affects on my health. Some people think because I’m young it’s better to do it now because my body can handle it. And then yesterday I found out that radiation could also damage the mesh that was just put into me. Why would we want to weaken the thing that’s now holding me together?

Then there’s the consideration of what happens if it comes back. The rate of recurrence is really unknown for synovial sarcomas. No matter what we do now, my Hulk Hogan-level aggressive cancer cells could decide they’re coming back anyway. But if they do come back they’d be at Terminator levels. Those bastards would really want to survive. So if Tristen II shows up and we had already radiated, then a) what a waste of time, and b) we can’t radiate again. Radiation can only occur in a place one time. So not radiating now means that we’ll have that card in our back pockets if we need it later. But also as I found out yesterday, if Tristen II does happen, it’s possible they would recommend chemo instead of radiation, thinking he’s so damn persistent that his cells could have moved beyond my abdominal obliques so let’s do a full body treatment to really cover our bases. All recurrence treatment options would include another surgery, of course.

So all of this was talked about in Tumor Board on Tuesday. Tumor Board is where all the oncologists discuss cases to come to a unified treatment decision. In addition to Tumor Board, my results were sent to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion e-consult. And for a third opinion, my doctor talked to hear colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering, aka the leading sarcoma experts in the country.

Tumor Board: Every person said do not radiate except one, the radiologist, who would have voted yes even if I didn’t have cancer just because it’s his thing. Their reasons: small tumor, clear margins, young person who does not need harmful radiation rays to not only harm her body but the mesh we just put in.

MSK: Do not radiate. Same reasons. And not only should I not radiate, but if this comes back I should have chemo instead.

Mayo Clinic: I still don’t know. They’ve had my info since Labor Day but we haven’t heard an answer yet. It’s unlikely they would recommend radiation, but it’s even less likely that their recommendation would change my mind.

In the end I have the final say. But with the best oncology doctors on the East Coast – Dartmouth and MSK – saying don’t do it, why on earth would I decide any other way?

“So, does this mean I’m done? When do I see you again?” “Yes, this means you get a break. I’ll see you in 4 months for your MRI.”

I get a break. Even though I want to say I’m done, I know I’m not really done done. I have two appointments next week, one with the sarcoma specialist just to make sure it’s healing ok and I know my next steps, and one with my physical therapist. Then I have to keep up my exercises and see a physical therapist probably once or twice a month. And for the next two years I need an MRI and CT scan every 4-5 months. If they stay clear, then I go down to once a year. For the rest of my life.

I will never be totally free of Tristen. The dent in my side will lessen as tissue forms around it and the scar will continue to diminish to a fine line, but they will still be there. My monitoring scans will reduce from every 4 months to every year, but they will never end. But today, with the immense relief of not having to go through 5 weeks of radiation, for the first time since this all began 7 months ago, I feel like I can finally start to move on with my life.

Pathology Results

So I was totally wrong when I said I would have to wait until September 2nd for my pathology reports. About 2 hours after I posted my last update I got a call from my doctor. She had my results.

The margins are negative. This is priority number one, and it is a huge relief. What does this mean? They got it all out. No more surgery – Tristen is completely, officially gone.

The official size of the tumor was 3.6 cm. Even though they removed 7 cm, he was actually only 3.6, hence the clear margins. Anything under 5 cm is considered small and typically means no radiation. This means, despite appearances, he was actually a small tumor.

Those are two incredibly great pieces of news. They’re exactly what everyone was hoping for. Typically with those results there is no radiation, the surgery having been enough to be considered curative. However those aren’t the only results I received. Continuing on…

The mitotic rate (how fast it multiplies) is 24. This is considered a high grade, aggressive tumor.

While clear, the margin at the skin was close. She did take some skin but not all, in order to avoid doing a skin graft, so we knew this would be tight.

The combination of a high grade tumor and close margin typically means radiation. So you see the dilemma now – half the results say no radiation, half say yes. So what’s the consensus?

The tumor board is going to review me again. With the new information they’ll form a recommendation for my next steps. Right now it’s a 50/50 chance of radiation. Radiation can only occur in an area of the body once, so if we radiate now and it somehow comes back (Tristen missed me too much) we won’t be able to radiate again next time, so surgery will have to be enough. If we don’t radiate now and it somehow comes back (that bastard) we could radiate me then to make it smaller before surgery, making it a less invasive surgery. This is just considering the off chance that it comes back, but since synovial sarcoma is so rare we unfortunately have no information about the risk of recurrence. The other consideration is whether or not to radiate someone at my age and the effects it could have on me. Some people think it’s better to avoid radiation at a young age, others think I can handle it at a young age and it’s better to give me a higher chance of non-recurrence.

Either way radiation would be a preventative measure. The tumor, the cancer, is gone. I will have ultimate say once they tell me their referral. I have to wait about 2 weeks for that.

In the meantime, I have my first Physical Therapy appointment on Thursday.