I live my life in 3 month increments.
Every 120 day cycle heralds what could be the difference between life as I currently know it or a sudden explosion of fire alarms, med changes and new side effects. Four times a year I receive a CT scan to determine if there is any disease growth–changes in current tumors or evidence of new tumors. This requires me to prep for 2 hours before the procedure by fasting and drinking one of a variety of barium cocktails with flavor names like Mochachino–I mean, is that even a word?? It tastes just like it sounds. Gross.
The scan itself is short. The prelude and postlude are long and torturous. All of the same worries and fears come rushing back and I’m never sure if my oncologist will celebrate or panic. I spend those hours reeling with all the feels– I’m positive, brave, cautious, upbeat, scared, anxious, hopeful and any other cancer-fighting cliche you can think of. I’m a one woman emotional show.
My medical team and I are in uncharted waters these days. See, when everything got real back in September of 2015, my onco told me that once cancer spreads to soft tissue organs (like that fall when it showed up in the lining of my heart), on average patients have 6 months to live. Um, excuse me?
So when those 6 months came and went with no change, a tiny piece of fear was pushed to the side. Then another scan came and went. And another. Before I knew it I was 2 years out from that terrible statistic of 6 months. I celebrated Halloween twice. Christmas twice. Two of my kids’ birthdays. My own 40th birthday. The only thing we cared about was stability in those scans. When they continued to come back with no new growth, I started feeling like Rocky, standing at the top of those stairs, fists clenched high above my head. IDK, maybe there had been a mistake and I didn’t have cancer.
Turns out no mistake, but I am definitely bucking the stats.
I have my next scan in 4 weeks and I’m already feeling those emotions bubbling up. It’s like the further I get from that ugly prognosis, the scarier it gets because I should be dead. I still pause and take a breath every time I plan for the future. Talking about anything that’s more than a few months away is terrifying. When I plan for things to come, I liken it to walking out on a ledge. Each step is a little more borrowed life.
There are days I’d like to stay in a bubble where time stands still. But since I know that’s impossible, I live. It’s hard. A simple 8 minute scan bookends a time frame in which I can either hide under the covers or make plans to go to the beach. It’s my choice. But sometimes it feels like an impossible choice.
All I can do is channel all that good juju that my squad sends regularly and hope my body continues to respond positively to the chemo treatment regiment I currently receive. But when I see my doc’s number come up on my phone a few days after each scan, my heart still skips a beat and, for a moment, I’m lost in panic. Bubble or beach?
And then, fists clenched above my head, I’m off for another 3 months.