Oh, NED. I miss you already. Others who have experienced cancer will recognize this odd acronym, used by doctors to describe the awkward expanse of uncertainty between “measurable disease” and “cured.” It stands for No Evidence of Disease, meaning that there’s nothing in your bloodwork or scans to show that cancer remains in your body, and yet, the danger remains great and you must keep vigilant watch. It only takes a few rogue cells lurking in the shadows to wake the beast again. (Kind of like You Know Who at the beginning of the Harry Potter series.) Only time can tell how long your remission will last: could be a few months, could be decades.
Maybe, you dare to hope, the disease will Never Ever Dare to return. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I had a blissful summer fling with NED last year, after my second surgery, before it was clear that the cancer had metastasized. We were reunited after my HIPEC surgery in January, but by midsummer, bloodwork was starting to suggest an imminent breakup. A CT scan just confirmed that two new tumors have grown in my peritoneum. NED has officially dumped me.
Both times, the cancer grew back despite follow-up chemo, which means my particular beast is slipperier and faster than the weapons at hand. Yet new weapons are being invented at a heartening pace, and I’m excited about the recent breakthroughs reported in immunotherapy drug development. So far, those breakthroughs are mostly in other types of cancers, but melanoma is one of them–and there’s a genetic mutation (BRAF) in my tumors that is present in many melanomas, so it’s possible one of those drugs could work for me.
It’s been a hard few days after getting my scan results. I’m scared and sad and just plain tired. I was so ready to be done with cancer, but here we go again.
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