A passionate traveller turning into a cancer fighter

Author: martinah1317 (Page 1 of 6)

Awakening from a Dream

Saying Goodbye.. !

Again I have broken my promise on keeping you updated more frequently and I sincerely feel very bad about it!!! However, you have got forgive me, as a trip to South Africa for 5 weeks is a damn good reason not to be online.

As I had mentioned in my blog “A beacon of hope” I was on a testing phase with a multiple kinase inhibitor called Lenvatinib and I was waiting for my test result from the tumor sequencing conducted in Heidelberg. Hence, my situation was stable and stagnant at the same time.

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Reliving our African Dreams – 5 weeks in South Africa (Part 2)

The most exciting part of our holiday, however, was yet to come: my Dad, brother and two cousins from Italy joined us for 10 days.

On Friday 7 April, 2017 my Dad and Stefan arrived whereas Matteo and Simone landed on Sunday 9 April, 2017. Since I have been fighting cancer this was the first long distance holiday together with the entire family and it taking place in South Africa, our loving country, just made it all the more special. For my two cousins it was their first ever time in Africa, and we were extremely excited to share with them our experiences, stories and simply show them why we fell in love with this country. We booked a beautiful big pool villa during their stay at Eden Rock Estate, a luxury estate located in Pennington and hence close to our friends. Obviously we made sure that there was a bit of program organized for my cousins so as for them to experience some African adventure, cuisine and culture.

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Reliving our African Dreams – 5 weeks in South Africa (Part 1)

And again I broke my promise that I wouldn’t keep you waiting too long for updates, but believe me this time I have a very good reason to stay away from my laptop. Once I felt comfortable with my new Lenvatinib therapy I was able to enjoy my days without any side effects but I started having another issue: my wanderlust was not satisfied and I immediately had to change this. Why waste time on cold winter days in Germany staying indoors and afraid to get sick when instead I could be sitting somewhere soaking up the sun and feeling good, strong and positive? Even my doctor had already come to the conclusion that “TRAVEL is my therapy”, because every time I travel and follow my passion I get an extra kick of energy.


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Oman – Muscat & Nizwa

In May 2010 my mum and grandmother came to visit me in the Middle East. I was able to only get a few days off, and decided to do something different with them. For the first couple of days the two ladies stayed in Dubai and explored this modern city and my mum showed my grandmother around, whilst I was at work.

We then met up in Dibba, a small border town between the United Arab of Emirates and the Peninsula Musandam that belongs to Oman, we rented a car to commence our short road trip to Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. There are several options to drive to Muscat, but for nice scenic view through most northern part of the Al Hajar mountains we decided to cross the border at Hatta. Within 440km you can reach the capital of Oman, and besides the curving roads in the mountains, the road remains most of the time all straight and quite boring. The landscape remains very dry and desert-like throughout the drive along the coast. At this time of the year (May) it is very hot in Oman and temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.

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A beacon of hope

Lately, I have received so many messages and calls from friends asking me on how I am doing and if there are any updates with my disease progression, and only then I realized I have not posted an update on my blog for a while. So my apologies for the late update!

From my post “Fuck Cancer!” you already know that the therapy with my old pink pills that I have started in the summer of 2016 were no longer bearable due to the many bad side effects. I got so frustrated that I had decided to stop the medication as I was tied up to my bed feeling sick and in pain. This was not a life I wanted to live. Also the festive season was coming up, and I was simply looking forward to spend time with the family and eat great food. My amazing doctor understood the situation and immediately agreed to discontinue with the medication and take a break until the New Year. Nevertheless, he also had a ‘plan B’. So let me get straight to the point.

One of the things we have initiated to do was tumor sequencing, which is basically an analysis of genomes and a biochemical laboratory method for the characterization and identification of the DNA or RNA sequences of cancer cells.

It is known that cancer is the result of many genetic errors that can cause healthy cells to degenerate and grow out of control. So with the analysis of my tumor tissue the scientists will be able to identify my DNA/RNA, to copy number and sequence variants, identify mutation status and structural changes. Identifying these genetic errors by means of DNA-sequencing will contribute to a better understanding of the early stages of tumor development and lead the way to more individualized treatments. The hope is to find a specific or personalized medication suitable for my cancer type. In order to do that though, the radiologist had to remove some tumor tissue from my lung, which then could be sent to the clinic in Heidelberg who has the world’s first genome research platform. So on 15 December 2016, I spent one night in hospital for the small lung punctuation. Obviously, things don’t always work out as smoothly as you wish, and upon my return from Italy in the New Year, I was being told that the tumor tissue sent to Heidelberg was not sufficient for the sequencing. This meant I had to go back for another small operation.

In the meantime, two months went by since I stopped my last medication and we decided to do another CT-scan. Simultaneously, the doctors in Stuttgart arranged the next small operation to gain more tumor tissue for Heidelberg. And now guess what…. I got hit by another surprise! The scan showed that the cancer has spread to the liver and here I cite what was written in the diagnostics findings: “multiple new metastases in the liver not larger than 19mm”. At first it really shocked me, as these little fuckers just want to do what they want. But then I read the rest of the report and I have to admit that overall it isn’t too bad. The report states that the bone metastases remained unchanged and stable and no new spots could be identified. The lung metastases grew bigger e.g. from 35mm to 38mm, but no new lung metastases could be seen. Considering that I have been on a 2 months therapy-break, it’s actually not so bad.

Anyway to cut a long story short I went for my small operation on 25 January 2017, where more tumor tissue from the liver was removed and sent to Heidelberg. Thereafter I even had to drive all the way to Heidelberg to sign the papers and confirm that I agree to the tumor sequencing. German bureaucracy can be such a pain in the ass. Now I have to be patient, because the outcome is expected only 8 weeks later.

Instead of waiting for the results and giving my cancer cells more opportunities to grow and spread, my doctor recommended doing a different therapy which is however similar to my previous one.

The medication I am now taking is called Lenvatinib, also a multiple kinase inhibitor that should suppress tumor growth. Lenvatinib is a new generation drug that shall also give less side effects than the other ones I have been taking. On Friday, 27 January 2017 I started with the new medication and so far I have been handling it quite well. Just in the first week I had very strong bone and joint pain, but then my condition stabilized. I am quite happy at the moment on how it is going, as I am now in my 4th week of therapy and still untroubled with side effects. I do need lots of sleep, and in the evening I am very tired, but I am still able to meet up with friends. Let’s pray and hope this medication works as good as the previous one… just without the side effects. 🙂

Sleeping with my cutie…

Overall I really cannot complain right now except for the very cold winter here in Germany. Everyone is sick and got the flu, so I am trying to avoid public places, as I cannot afford to get sick at all. The new medication and the ongoing tumor sequencing are providing me a beacon of hope and keep me motivated not to give up and until I exhausted all possibilities. That’s it for now and I promise I won’t wait so long to give updates the next time.

A new life in the Middle East (Oman & Dubai)

After I graduated from my studies in Hospitality & Tourism Management in September 2009, I applied for a job in Oman that was advertised at my university. The job was exactly what I was looking for: a management trainee position in Sales & Marketing for a small high-end luxury hotel company named Six Senses Resorts & Spa. Just the location was not exactly what I was keen on, which was Oman. With mixed feelings I applied for this position. It was the first job application I sent out, and I never expected that I would get the job in the first place. I still remember very well that I was conducting several phone interviews whilst I was in South Africa on vacation, and when I was being told that I was down to the last three applicants and I burst into tears! Can you imagine I was sitting in a little hill in the middle of an African bush field and I cried because I was scared to actually get the job? Pretty ridiculous of me as so many other people had been searching for jobs for months, whilst I was very lucky to be down the final stages of the application. By the time I had my final interviews and eventually got the job offer I was totally thrilled. I realized that this was an amazing opportunity for me and the location itself should not be a hindrance.

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Already 366 days have passed since my huge surprise party on my 30th birthday last year. And yes, I had an extra day in 2016 to enjoy my 30s as it was a leap year. One precious extra day that means so much more for me. It means 24 hours extra for me to live, or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds.

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Reflecting on 2016 and looking ahead into 2017

Another year has come to an end and with mixed feelings I look back to 2016. Whilst I noticed many have complained about 2016 being a horrible year and lament the death of famous figures, I look back on 2016 being not such a bad year for me. I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions with many ups and downs, but nevertheless the ups dominated in 2016.

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Great Ocean Road – Outback – Queensland – Sydney

So here I am on my last Australian road trip and I was lucky that my mum and brother joined me for this one. Obviously upon their arrival in Melbourne we they stayed with me in my apartment and spend a couple of days to show them around in the city that I called my home for the last few months.

We headed on a day trip to the Great Ocean Road one of the world’s most scenic drives and listed as Australian National Heritage. The road stretches 243 km along the south-eastern coast of Australia between Torquay and Allansford offering curving roads with striking views. The Great Ocean Road is mainly famous for the “Twelve Apostles”, a collection of giant eroded limestone sticks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. In the same National Park you will also find “London Arch”, a natural arch also formed by erosion. Other key attractions include the Bay of Islands, an impressive large collection of mammoth rock outcrops, as well as the “Gibson’s Steps named for the series of steps leading down to Gibson’s Beach. Unfortunately we were not very lucky with the weather that day, and hence we were not able to see the last two sites, but we still had a beautiful scenic drive and great views over the Twelve Apostles.

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Christmas is about sharing and spending time with family and friends. It’s about creating happy memories with those you love. There are many gifts I want to give to you this Christmas: love, joy, happiness, health and good spirits are all presents I am sending your way! May your Christmas be filled with the miracles and meaning of this beautiful time. Merry Christmas!

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