Beyond the Byline: Tops on my bucket list is not thinking about a bucket list

By Melanie Mizenko - [email protected] | May 18th, 2016 1:35 pm

Thank you.

I’m floored at the amount of emails, calls and cards readers have sent since I announced my journey against a (second) bout of cancer. I wish I could reach out to each of you personally and hug you. You guys rock.

The cards, voicemails and emails all end with “keep us informed” or a variation of the sort.

This is an update I didn’t want to write. This may be hard for you to read. It was hard for me to write.

I sincerely wanted to write that everything was hunky-dory and life would go on. I wish I had nothing to report. In the newspaper business, nothing to write is a bad day. In the medical business, nothing to write is a good day.

Alas, things don’t always work out the way we want.

The trial I was in, ‘Plan B,’ did not work. At my last scan (last week), the doctor found the tumor had grown. But that’s okay, right? There’s medication for that; they can do surgery like last year, right?

Not exactly.

My doctor and members of the medical team in Philadelphia are hopeful. This new trial I’m going to get into soon is our Plan A. It was plan A in February; it’s Plan A now. A spot in Plan A wasn’t open back in February — trials are limited and only if someone opts out or removes themselves from the trial does another spot open up. I’ve been having pressure in my lower back and called my doctor to consult. Shortly after that conversation, she received an email, telling her a spot in Plan A had opened.

Divine intervention?


The Plan A trial is made for the type of cancer I have; whereas, my cancer was an arm of the trial tested in Plan B.

If Plan A doesn’t work within three months (the length of the first leg of the trial), where do we go?

I can potentially do Plan C, which is standard FDA-approved chemo, but again, will it work? Who knows?

I’m often asked about surgery. Why can’t a surgeon remove the tumors?

The answer? Precious chemo time would be lost to healing and recovery time. Especially since cancer cells regenerate rapidly. The doctors would rather attack tumors and cells with chemo than risk surgery.

In my twisted mind, that makes perfect sense.

After kicking “the posse” — mother, sister, sister’s best friend — out of the room during the appointment, my doctor told me to start thinking about bucket list items. She’s scared and worried — because if Plan A doesn’t work, the chances Plan C will work are low.

Being told you potentially have a terminal cancer diagnosis hits everyone differently. My sister, Julie, has to tell the world and her circles — I say “circles” because a single circle isn’t big enough to fit everyone she talks to. My aunts have rallied around my mother, Susan — I owe them a debt of gratitude as well because they’ve kept Mom on solid ground throughout this ordeal.

We all die.

The majority of you won’t ever be told told to start “looking at bucket list items.” To those who have been told that, I empathize. It’s a scary feeling I can’t explain. I never thought I would hear those words.

We knew in January 2015 this is a difficult cancer to overcome with occurrence exceptionally high.

But my doc told me, “I’m all in, if you are.”

There’s nothing stopping me from believing I’m going to beat this. Really, there isn’t — besides my own head. Attitude is 75 percent of the battle.

Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and Tour de France winner, said it best: “We have two options, medically and emotionally; give up or fight like hell.”

We will fight until we can’t fight anymore.

Where there is life, there is hope.


By Melanie Mizenko

[email protected]