Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The marriage

After the high of the PET scan results, I got another two great pieces of news that will ultimately lead me toward the next stage of my life: no radiation, no surgery.

Radiation was nixed because the PET scan results were so good and because if I radiated anyway, I could end up with a broken rib or a host of other nasty complications.

Surgery was nixed because the PET scan results were so good and because there's nothing left to resect.

I came into this whole dealio thinking I was a sure candidate for both of those steps, so to be removed from the list makes me feel like I lost the lead in a really bad play. I'm a bit miffed I wasn't selected, but the whole experience would have been a shitty one, so ultimately yay for me.

There's still the game of "what's under my armpit?" to play, so I get an ultrasound on Thursday that may or may not lead to a biopsy during the same visit. If the biopsy happens and there are cancerous cells behind door number three, the options are not cut and dry.

For once, Dr. A wants to be less aggressive.

She recommended that if it's cancer, she would prefer I take a "wait and see" approach rather than blast it with radiation or cut it out. Radiation leads me back to those nasty complications and surgery could leave me with two arms that have compromised lymph systems. It's been bad enough babying my left arm for the past four years, but an infection that nearly ended me in 2013 is a story I don't want to repeat.

I agreed with Dr. A on waiting things out, so no matter how the ultrasound on Thursday turns out, I'm moving into maintenance mode, or a marriage for life with il cancro.

Three years ago, when I came back to work after beating the c-word the first time, the question I heard the most was "did your doctor give you a clean bill of health?" At the time, I was a bit put off by the question. I was released from the care of the Agency after getting "clean margins" from my mastectomy, but there was never a conversation about the cancer being absolutely gone. I felt like a bit of a fraud, but I played the game for simplicity's sake.

"Yep, clean bill!" I would exclaim, because I'm not a social idiot or a debbie downer and most of these conversations were on the way to the bathroom or during a 60-second chat as I passed a cubicle.

Everyone wants a happy ending and beating cancer is undoubtedly inspirational. The real complexity of having it is hard to describe quickly and doesn't really fit on a poster.

Since then, a handful of friends have passed away from cancer far too soon, every one of them getting something like a clean bill of health from their doc at some point - either that exact phrase or something more medical-speak like "complete pathological response". Whatever they heard, I'm sure every one of them did the jig like I did after my PET scan, because it's fucking good news, and you thirst for that shit when you're going through treatment.

The truth is, once you get cancer, it's more like a rocky marriage than a bad boyfriend you kick out after you can't take it anymore. And that's hard to adjust to. I will have to manage this asshole for the rest of my life, like it or not. I still have more or less the same body, and whatever led those cancer cells to take over in the first place is still there. I can try to push them off as long as possible through a great diet, regular exercise and consistent meditation practice, but it will never go away completely.

This isn't sexy or inspirational. And I promise not to be depressing when you talk to me about this stuff as I roam the world again. Because I feel anything but depressed or defeated. I am over-the-moon about coming to the end of a giant hill, and there's really nothing that can push me off that high.

So I will continue to have Herceptin and Pertuzumab pumped into my veins every three weeks. I will likely go on some kind of brutal medicine to put me into early menopause and keep the estrogen at bay. I will continue to have scans at regular intervals to see if those asshole cells are still, after all the warnings, leaving their socks all over the bedroom floor again. But I'll also continue to be so badass, my cancer husband will have no choice but to be quiet and meek and so very regretful of the day he thought he could disrespect me twice.

It helps immensely having a real husband who is nothing like my cancer husband and has gone the distance with me over the past 12 years. He loves my wretched self despite everything I've put him through in the better or worse category.

"In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words, 'Here begins a new life'." - Dante


  1. LOVE your posts..........so informative, dare I say entertaining?, and well-written. my GOD girl you have the gift! you are ONE BEAUTIFUL HUMAN BEING and you continue to be an inspiration to others. XOXO

  2. sigh...
    now make sure when you pick up those socks you don't throw them in the wash but you send them to the moon.

  3. It is such a roller coaster you are riding ... one day up, the next day down, but I am glad I am along for the ride. And, if I remember correctly, you were always the child who wanted to go on the scariest rides, to prove your courage. Consider yourself proven and let's get off the roller coaster soon!