Lucky.

Posted on March 8, 2015

6


Please have another option. Come on… one more.

My doctor bent back two of his fingers and rested each on the palm of his other hand. Each digit represented one of my possible chemotherapy options he had just finished explaining.

Minutes earlier he entered the exam room. I’m sure he was clued in at this point that I hadn’t totally adored the FOLFOX treatments he prescribed to fight the possibility of any rouge cancer cells meandering around my bloodstream in search of home. In the process of looking for cells gone AWOL, the drugs leave a path of destruction in their wake; a time when a bit of discrimination on their would be appreciated. I’ve been exhausted more than I’ve ever imagined, I’ve been ghostly pale, I’ve been left winded at the slightest movement. This stuff, I’ve said before, is the real deal.

“So… the first option, is to continue as is, through April, like we had planned.” This was index finger option.

“Second, we can decrease the dosages 20% and see if it’s more tolerable.” Middle finger option.

Please have another option. Different drugs, different timeline… give me something.

“I would also be comfortable…” I’m hanging onto every moment, “if you chose to stop the chemotherapy treatments all-together.”

Wait. What?

“I’m sorry. What was that last thing you just said?”

IMG953787He reviewed all the items that have gotten me to this point: the cancer was caught early, chemo and radiation before surgery, the APR surgery that left me ass-less, no evidence of disease in the margins nor any of the 14 lymph nodes that were removed, and downstaging of my tumor. He explained that 4-6 months is standard bit in my case, more or less, the follow-up regimen of FOLFOX could be considered ‘insurance.’ He mentioned, almost impressively, that I have already been through half of these follow-up treatments; the words ‘ol’ college try’ were uttered somewhere in the conversation.

“What you’re really saying, Doc, is that I’m one of the luckiest people in the world.”

“Well,” he giggled to himself, “not really. What I’m saying is that I’m comfortable telling you that you have a choice to stop chemotherapy.”

To stop. To end the nightmare. To finish.

I couldn’t even process what he was saying-my thoughts, emotions, pros, cons all swirled gale-force in my head. It was a strange purgatory of questions and quelled excitement. On one hand, I wanted to scream with joy and sprint out of the office high-fiving people like the Packers running onto Lambeau Field. On the other hand, my reasoning mind traveled into the future, wondering of the possible consequences if I stop the treatment short.

My doctor doesn’t consider me lucky–that may be medically inappropriate– but I do.

The journey of my life, any life, is never supposed to include this path. But we don’t get to choose most of the paths we’re on. We get to choose how we react, how open we are to helping hands, how we approach circumstances thrown in our faces, our attitude in the darkest moments…. We get to choose a million things within the framework of our circumstances. But this one… I didn’t think I would see this path… the one that included stopping chemo.

From day one, people have asked how I’m doing, or have asked me how I’m able to ‘do it.’ I’ve never thought my answers were sufficient for such a loaded question. I guess I’m blessed to have the most amazing community of people around me continually feed my spirit and nurture my strength beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. It’s amazing what you can do if you must. Perhaps that’s the human spirit.

IMG953719I read something recently that said something along the lines of ‘there’s something about our make-up that kicks in when we are faced with true and real adversity.’ I think that’s what we call human spirit. It’s beyond science, but as real as anything. I know, for a fact, that Jon Wick alone could not have waged the fight he was thrust in. It was the love of prayers, and energy, and food, and conversations, and Cass, and Margo, and sunny days, and family, and friends, and crisp mountainscape mornings with freshly fallen snow. It was those connections outward, that give me strength inward.

Spirit.

I can’t help but think of how each piece of the puzzle came together leading to this choice; how each doctor visit helped create informed decisions, how their expertise contributed to my health, how every person I crossed paths with and all of the messages of support–as brief as they may have been–injected life-affirming morsels of love and energizing hope. From Spokane to Iowa to Montana. Every interaction became a part of me and a part of how I got here… to this choice.

Cassie and I celebrated and laughed together when we were able. We got battered and, when it was needed, we wept together. I guess it’s safe to say that no journey is truly linear.

IMG953690I also consider myself lucky because I know there are thousands of people who are fighting this disease who will never be in my position. My heart breaks for them; I am pissed for them. I don’t know why I have been spared, nor do I think I will ever know. I did nothing to deserve more life than the next colorectal cancer patient. But I do owe it to those who continue to fight, those who will fight, and those that have held my hand through the fight of mine, to live with every fiber of my soul.

I’ve been riding shotgun to my own death for long enough. It’s time to start getting back to being alive again. That’s my choice… not to stop chemotherapy, but to live.

I didn’t ‘beat’ cancer, I’m not sure you ever do. But, as it stands today, I have no evidence of disease in my body- I’m NED.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Now if you’ll excuse me… I need to empty this bag of poo hanging off my tummy 😉

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Posted in: Cancer