Monday, November 21, 2016

Shadows in a Mirror

Negligent blogger back on duty...

And this is sort of a "live" blog as I'm currently sitting in the infusion center for number five of this round. Which means only one more to go for this year. Because yes, the year's end is nearly upon us.

I will get a nice break from the chemotherapy after the final session (in two more weeks) as my doctor has agreed to let me wait until after the holidays to start another round, if that is the route we take. Of course the plan going forward in the new year will depend on my next PET scan (mid-month Dec).

In the last many weeks since my last post, I have had another very successful MRI brain scan. It showed no evidence of the three smaller tumors, and the large one remains stable and continues to show less and less activity. This likely means it is slowly turning into scar tissue. And no new tumor activity! These are excellent results indeed.

The appointment to get those results had me thinking again about scanxiety. It is something I've gotten rather good at staving off in general. However there is something about the MRIs that still scares the heck out of me a bit. I don't think about it much in the week between scan and results anymore. But those few minutes from when the nurse leaves and the doctor comes in with the report, my nerves ramp up to 11. I feel it most after she has delivered the news and I feel the weight of the worry leave my shoulders. It was in that moment that I realized how much I had been metaphorically holding my breath and how very concerned I was about something other than positive results.

Living in the shadow of fear - this is a challenge for the late stage cancer patient who is living ~with~ cancer. At this current point of my treatment I am not expecting to get N.E.D. (no evidence of disease) or clean results from scans and doctor appointments. We, my team and I, are hoping for positive progression and to keep me as healthy as possible. As well as allowing me opportunities for the space and freedom to travel and live life as large as I can. And ideally to do this for many years. Eternal optimist that I am, I still hope for another span of time with Mr. N.E.D. That next affair is certain to be a whirlwind of a time.

I've spoken here before about the fear that sits deep in your mind, or on your heart, about recurrence and growth. Being touched by cancer leaves large and permanent scars; most of them not being of the physical kind. This goes not only for patients, but for caregivers and those truly closest to the patients. The work, the slog, the worry, the all takes a toll and leaves deep marks. In the quietest of times, when you are alone and the stream of your consciousness gets still, that's when you feel the chill of it pass by you. The smallest puff of wind that brings goosebumps and a deep melancholy. A moment that can linger or recede. This is where choice enters. Now and again it can be helpful, even cathartic, to remain in the sadness; allowing your whole heart to feel everything. To explore and allow all the deep emotions that we distract ourselves from daily. Clinging to the expansiveness of this release - that is the tricky place. After some time there I have to lean back towards the sun, towards the light of love and pleasures that are so prevalent in my world.

Perhaps that is where my "strength" comes from. That compliment that I more often than not eschew. I forget sometimes that my choice to stand "hopeful and smiling" does not come so easily to all. There are as many ways to approach our days are there are people on this planet. If I inspire or positively touch those around me, then I consider that a compliment that I am happy to receive.