For as long as I can remember I've been prone to using the simile "...like a cancer" to describe a range of crappy things or situations. It's dawned on me now that I've probably been ill-qualified to use the phrase. For those whose lives have not been directly touched by cancer the imagination is not near capable of conceiving how awful cancer is.
Today I got my 1st surveillance scan results, five months after my initial NED (No Evidence of Disease) result. Thankfully, it was good news. NED again, which I am obviously beyond happy about. Like always it wasn't a perfectly clean result - there are a few spots that the report suggested warrant close monitoring - in my spine, lungs and my nose (I know - seriously, if get nose cancer after having bum cancer I am going to be seriously pissed with the world). But, overall, the report conclusion was that there was no marked evidence of cancer anywhere in my body. The oncologist did remind me that I am in the highest possible category of risk for recurrence (because I had metastatic cancer in another organ coupled with extensive lymph node spread) and suggested another scan in three months. I'll take it. I get to pretend life is normal again for another three whole months.
This is tinged with more than a little guilt. Just this weekend I heard from two cancer buddies - people of a similar age that I connected with online who were diagnosed around the same time as me, with a similar diagnosis and a similar prognosis. Both had also recently had scans, and both got awful results. Their cancer has progressed rapidly and in an inoperable fashion, limiting their treatment to chemo and radiation only. Another friend here in Sydney, diagnosed in December 2017 and given just months to live, gets her scan results tomorrow after some extremely aggressive radiation treatment.
There can't be many diseases as sadistic as cancer. When I was first diagnosed someone told me to hold on because I was about to board a roller coaster that I could never get off. Looking back I think that analogy was so apt. There are such deep lows, such euphoric highs and such short & violent transitions in between. Over the weekend, before getting my scan results, I was mentally processing different bad scenarios and how I would deal with them. What would I tell the kids if I needed more surgery or chemo ? What would I do if my results left me with no further conventional treatment options ? How would I handle the job that I've only just returned to ? Who is going to plant and harvest our urban farm? Then suddenly I get a good scan result today and it feels like I'm born again. The trees outside the hospital honestly seemed a little greener, the sky a little bluer, and I'm thinking about where to plant my fruit trees again.
I did realize two things after today's results: (1) the only solution to navigating these massive ups & downs is mental resilience & dexterity, and I still have a lot of learning to do there; and (2) I have quickly fallen back into old, bad habits after going back to work recently and while I got lucky with today's results I have to get serious about prioritizing my health and the time I spend with family above all else.
Stay well everybody.