I’ve been thinking more lately about the fact that while my grandparents mostly lived into their 90s, I won’t. I will be lucky to live into my 70s, which is the age my parents are now and still going strong. I knew this when I started this journey. Within the space of 5 minutes, that all changed, and it’s taken my breath away.
It’s hard to think of all the things I won’t be able to do because the probability of me surviving this for more than 5 years just dropped to around 22%. It makes me feel like all the treatment I’ve gotten through so far was for naught. All isn’t lost yet, but it’s really hard to pull myself up from this dark place of fear.
I don’t know what to feel yet, really. My stomach’s been in a knot for 2 days already. What little of my life that I’ve actually lived so far has flashed before my eyes. There are no answers to the whys of what’s happening in my body. We just know that this cancer is not going to just behave. Some would point out that this is who I am. I don’t just behave because someone tells me to, either.
My medical team tells me I’m in uncharted waters. Stage IV is where they call cancer incurable. The new node they found in the PET in July knocked me up a notch instead of down. In the space of 5 minutes, I went from Stage II to Stage IV. Reality is that this was probably already metastatic when I got diagnosed in October. They can try to manage it but it will eventually kill me. The big question is what the definition of eventually will be. It isn’t what I thought it would be a week ago. There aren’t enough people whose cancer behaves this way, or people who had similar metastases where their treatment plans were proven to work over time to know which path to take. There are a couple of options on the table today. I need to think about and work at getting a 2nd opinion. I need to work harder at getting my affairs in order.
A week ago, I was starting to plan the things I’d be doing when I finished radiation and was on the mend again. I wanted to buy a new camera and do some traveling. I was thinking about dating again. I’ve spent enough time grieving the fact that I’ve had to do so much of this alone. I have focused on the good qualities of my ex way too much in the past couple of months, wishing I had that back in my life. The good stuff, not him specifically.
If where we are today is where I think this is headed, finding that special someone is pretty much out. It would be patently unfair to ask someone to stand by and watch me die. I know that I couldn’t do that in a romantic relationship. I’d never be able to give all of myself to that person freely. It wouldn’t be right to ask someone else to do more than that. This is all philosophical at this point. I need to get through the next phase of treatment and see how things go before I throw the baby out with the bath water.
While basically coasting through my chemo, I wondered when the other shoe would drop. It seems that it finally has, and I’m scared. I’m most afraid that I won’t ever be able to be done with treatments and procedures so that I can enjoy whatever time I have left without being exhausted or unable to move. I’m trying not to get too far down the rabbit hole of despair. There are a few patients my doctors have seen where the disease progressed similarly, and the treatment they’re thinking of using on me worked on them, and they’re still disease free almost 2 years later. This makes me feel somewhat hopeful.
I have to stay focused on the coming weeks. How will the next parts of the treatment plan affect me, and what happens if they fail? How will I know? This is the hoping for the best and planning for the worst part of the program. I started to do some of this planning 4 years ago, and then again when I got diagnosed. I put it aside because I needed time to think through some of my decisions about my stuff. Thinking about end of life when you’re still thinking about how you’re going to get through the day and onto tomorrow is just too much of a continental shift to do both at the same time. But there are questions I need to ask myself and hopefully find honest answers. How long will I be able to work and have insurance? What is my plan if I can’t? What steps do I need to take now to plan for my end of my life.
Last night, or more accurately, this morning, I was dreaming that I was back at the offices where I had one of my first real jobs out of college. It wasn’t the same place, but I knew where I was. They had built a new building with a courtyard of businesses where you could get something to eat or run errands on lunch hours. I was staying in a room in the office that was like a hotel room. Another woman was sleeping in a conference room with a big glass window/door. She was on crutches, and I was told the window was so people would now when to go to help her. Everyone there knew I had cancer and that I didn’t have a terribly long time to live. There were some familiar faces that broke into broad smiles when they saw me and enveloped me into hugs, telling me I would be okay and they were happy I could make it for a visit. There were many women there who’d had surgeries and were being wheeled about, or they were getting ready for tests and procedures. They asked if I would sit with them while they had their scans. They wanted me by their sides. It was the first time in 2 days that I’d felt my stomach relax.
It’s not over yet. There are still treatments to be done. I will have to get through the coming days, maybe sometimes hour by hour, and gradually back to day by day and then week to week. It will take time. I have to have the patience and faith that all will work out for the best. Just like all those people in my dream telling me that it will all be okay.