Those who know me know that among my greatest strengths are my endless patience and deep reserves of an almost blissful serenity that gets me through… oh, hell, even I can’t stay that with a straight face and I went to acting school.
So I had my follow up visit with the oncologist, Dr. Wile E. Coyote Super Genius, and got a story that has both good news and no news and insanely frustrating news and worrisome news. It’s also a story that is both the same and fundamentally different than the one I got in the hospital. I’m going to chalk the latter up to me hearing what I wanted to hear and a LOT of painkillers. To be frank I’m surprised I didn’t hear that they had installed super powers when they went in to do the surgery and that now I have the ability to move heavy objects with my mind and talk to certain woodland creatures, but only about politics.
The story is thusly: all of the biopsies of the areas Dr. Frenchy was able to get to while he was crawling around inside my abdomen came back negative. That is great news, absolutely, and cannot and will not be discounted here.
The no news and insanely frustrating news and different news is that Dr. Frenchy was not able to get to some of the most highly suspicious areas, or at least cannot guarantee that he did. So that big glowing lymph node near my liver? Yeah, he thinks he might have gotten a hunk of it but isn’t 100% sure because it’s location made it virtually impossible to access. And it’s not like the thing was actually glowing – that would be helpful but apparently one’s gastric system doesn’t light up like a poster of a psychedelically painted VW van.
The only way to access that and other areas that are of concern would have been to open me up even further than he already did and that would’ve sucked on a level that I can’t even begin to contemplate. The 28 staples I have in my abdomen right now are plenty, thank you very much.
So Dr. Wile E. Coyote Super Genius basically gave me three options:
- Go back in for a deeper, more invasive, more thorough exploratory surgery to access the areas of concern for biopsy
- Start chemotherapy and radiation in case there is something there they can’t see
Another surgery is not an option as far as I’m concerned. I have had a horrific one and now a really painful one and I can’t do it again. People need to stop cutting into me – I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?
I also turned down his generous offer of chemo and radiation. First, we don’t know that there’s really cancer there so the idea of having chemo “just in case” seems kind of ridiculous to me. Second, even if the cancer is there we need to be realistic about things – that would be stage 3 or 4 esophageal cancer, and you don’t usually come back from that. If there was a good shot the chemo could cure the cancer that might be lurking there I might have a different answer but in this case it would be, at best, life extending.
So we wait. Oh goodie. I love waiting. I’m fucking THRILLED to wait. I hope there’s a line somewhere I can wait in! One that is in a place with no air conditioning.
We will wait for three months and then repeat all of the tests and procedures that don’t involve cutting me open (blood work, x-rays, PET scan, etc.) and see if the areas of concern have developed more or if they are still just sitting there, glowing.
The worrisome news is that when I pressed Dr. Wile E. Coyote Super Genius on what else could make the lymph node be all angry and glowy like that, he was at a loss. This is why, two weeks ago, when the PET scan came back, everyone involved – the oncologist, the surgeon, my regular doctor, the nurses, the PET scan technician – EVERYONE was giving me sympathetic head tilts, hugs, and “hang in there”’s. After all of the various test results and that scan, it was a foregone conclusion that the cancer was back and I think it took everyone by surprise that they couldn’t find anything when they cut me open. Everything is pointing to cancer except for actual cancer.
By the way, I just saw a TV promo for “Braxton Family Value” in which several of the Braxtons are in Italy and get very upset when they are NOT the Braxton whose butt gets pinched by a hot Italian guy. It really puts my stuff in perspective, doesn’t it? Thank you… and stay classy, Braxtons!
So the next three months for me will be interesting. I’ll be in a holding pattern on a lot of things – I certainly can’t make any major commitments about work, my home, or anything else big that will have implications beyond June. I mean, I know I could but I’m just not the kind of person who commits to something without knowing I can follow through on it. I’m not built that way.
On the other hand if there was ever a “live like you’re dying” moment, it would be this one. I have written extensively about a “perspective” that most people, including myself, are missing. It’s a perspective that says there are things to get upset about and things to get angry about and things to be worried about but most of the things that we get upset, angry, and worried about are not those things and so we shouldn’t let the insignificant stuff get in our way. The problem is that the moment something annoying or angering or frustrating crosses our path, perspective goes out the window.
So that will be my challenge for the next three months: to live life with perspective. I will wake up every morning and say something like “In June I will find out whether or not I have terminal esophageal cancer. What are you going to do today to not waste it?”
I wrote this on my blog the night before my big surgery in August:
So if I may offer some advice, either to you or to myself if/when I live through all of this it is as follows: don’t be so fucking afraid. Take a chance or do something new, every day, even if it’s something small. Eat at a restaurant you’ve never visited. Take a different way to work and pay attention to what you are driving past. Introduce yourself to that guy at the bar or that girl on the bus or the person at the bookstore looking at the latest from your favorite author who might just wind up being your new best friend. Get a tattoo, learn how to dance, sing karaoke, go bungee jumping… whatever that thing is that you have wanted to do but haven’t… why not?
It’s pretty good advice. I’m not saying I’m going to be able to follow it every day – I mean, all this should be life-altering but in the end I’m lazy and there is a lot of stuff to watch on TV – but I’m going to give it a shot. In that same post I talked about the 21 words I have tattooed on my body, so I’m going to make sure that every day I live by and live up to at least one of them.
Courage. Integrity. Joy. Life. Devotion. Indulgence. Desire. Commitment. Chance. Creativity. Family. Passion. Peace. Tolerance. Acceptance. Beauty. Art. Perseverance. Inspiration. Aspiration. Perspective.
I think the word for today was acceptance – acceptance of the fact that I can’t always get all of the answers I want, I can’t always control everything, and that life is messy and complicated and frustrating and incomplete.
I wonder what tomorrow’s word will be?