Prognosis

Well, a lot has changed since I last wrote. I’ve been in the hospital the better part of a month. I am so groggy on pain meds that I can’t type all the details, but the gist, the bitter pill I’m trying to swallow, is that I’m dying imminently. Doctors tell me I have weeks, maybe a few months, left to live. A surgery temporarily saved my life but now we’re out of options. I’m being kept alive by IV nutrition and sips of liquids. I’ve only seen Eleanor a handful of days. I will soon start home hospice care.

There is always hope. I get excited when I think about heaven. Although, I don’t know how to picture it I know that it is better than anything we can imagine–and I can imagine some pretty great things. It will be wonderful to see loved ones who have already gone before and be continually present in the Light, where there is no pain or fear. I almost feel guilty the way one does when packing for a trip that others aren’t going on.

I will try to write as often as I can going forward, but staying awake, let alone typing, is a challenge.

One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The waiting game

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to DO something. I expected things to happen in a fast-paced action sequence, like the movies. Instead, I discovered, this “battle” is more of a slog.

Or if it is a battle, the patient is stuck down in the trenches most of the time, wounded and with no clue what’s going on. All you can do is await news from someone with a better view, hearing occasional bursts of fire and wondering what, if anything, has been hit and whether you’re next. You become bone-weary and mud-stained and not particularly attractive. And yet, you’re alive. So there’s that.

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Stability

Sorry for keeping you in suspense about my scan results! I had a second, different type of scan today to clarify some of the findings from the one I had last week. The short version: I still have cancer, which of course I was secretly hoping against all reason not to hear. The imaging still reveals at least three tumors, roughly the size of cranberries, scattered through the peritoneum (abdominal lining). But they haven’t grown significantly, and my liver, lungs, and other organs remain unaffected. In other words, my cancer is stable.

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Breathing exercises 

“Take a deep breath, and hold it,” the man with the vaguely Australian accent is saying. I’ve been in this CT scan machine often enough to recognize that he’s a recording. (Heck, I’ve been here often enough I should probably start worrying about all this radiation exposure — oh, never mind, I already have cancer.) 

I like to imagine I am passing through some sort of magic portal as the machine slides me through the noisy, whirling ring that directs the computer’s gaze. Maybe I’ll emerge in a parallel universe where they’ve just cured cancer. Or at least a universe where I have a pony, perfect skin, and a summer home in France. 

This scan will be the test of whether my current course of combined chemo and immunotherapy is doing anything. If my tumors have grown, well, damn. Time for plan Z (we’ve been through all the others). If they’re stable or shrinking, I’ll do a happy dance and return to the routine of daily pills and infusions every two weeks, until the next scan. It could be a few days before my doctor is able to take a look at the report and issue a verdict.

In the meantime, I’ll follow the instructions of the voice in the machine: 

“Carry on breathing.”

Whine, please!

My daughter has a fever today and is generally miserable. I want her to feel better immediately, of course. Sick three-year-olds are pretty much the most pathetic thing in the world. (“Mommy, mommy, mommy, what can I do?! What can I do?! My legs are freezing but my head is hot and my sweatshirt feels funny and oh no I spilled my water and oh mommy mommy waaaaaa waaaaaa!” she wailed for 20 minutes straight until the ibuprofen kicked in.)

But at the same time, it’s such a relief to shove my own aches and pains to the side and focus on someone else’s problems. I love being the caregiver instead of the patient for a change.

I feel this relief every time a friend tells me about something hard that they are going through, which frankly, doesn’t happen too often these days. The sharing, I mean. Last time I checked, nobody’s life was perfect, but people seem to think it’s bad form to complain about anything to a cancer patient. If they do dare, they often stop and apologize mid-story, saying, “Of course, this is NOTHING compared to what you are going through. I can’t believe I’m even telling you about it.” (more…)

Life Lessons from Three-Year-Olds

2016-08-23-14-16-42This summer, I brought my daughter on a long-planned trip to my home turf: Vermont, where I spent my first 17 years and where my parents and grandmother and several good friends still live. I had envisioned showing her all my favorite old haunts, rambling down rec paths, going to the beach by Lake Champlain, and maybe even taking a short hike in Smuggler’s Notch.

As it turned out, I didn’t have the energy to do much besides get on and off the plane, collapse into my parents’ car and spend most of the week sitting around their house. It was just a few weeks after I’d learned about my recurrence, and I was still exhausted from the barrage of chemo drugs I’d received a few days earlier. (more…)