I feel neglectful to this commitment I have made to the conversation I am having here by not posting sooner that my scans and blood works came out good last week. There is still a small 3mm spot on my liver that was newly spotted in my CT scan in March, but nothing the doctor is worried about.
The news of this new mark on my liver freaked Jenn and I out back in March – small panic attack freak out and a few days of hightened edgyness between us but it passed. Neither of us wanted my cancer to come back but Jenn really didn’t want to have to think of me going through more treatment or pain. That processing took a minute. So, hearing that the mark was still there was not what I had hoped for but at least it is still small. And for the record we have NO CLUE what that mark is or what it means – I am well aware that medicine is an art and not necessarily an exact science. Years of medical advocacy in pregnancy and childbirth have prepped me well for this journey aparently. Could be something but could be nothing. For now we are not borrowing anymore worry than we need to.
I received a call Monday with my good scan results. I was happy but still guarded. I was not totally convinced yet. I wanted to wait until I also got my bloodwork back at my visit on Wednesday. When my bloodwork came back clear that was good but I was still not totally releived. There was not a flood of peace flowing through my being. It was more like a puddle of “Really? You sure about that?”
That night my lovely wife and I were setting posts for our new fence in our back yard as quick as we could before the rain was going to start. The whole evening I felt a heaviness and a bit of an edge. To be honest I did not want to be out doing yard work. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, probably stare at a wall for awhile but I didn’t say anything and went along helping with the job at hand. Then in the back corner of our garden after I cemented in the first corner post the feelings started to come as the rain started to drizzle. It hit me out of nowhere that I have been holding my life in limbo until that day. I could not plan or think about planning future or life without caveats of “in case I have to get treatment again”. The words came and the tears came and I sobbed into Jenns shoulder until I could not cry anymore. It felt like I was holding my breath for months while forcing a smile the whole time – finally I could breathe. Finally I could look ahead, at least for a little bit without the caveat looming so close to the surface. I was exhausted.
Even after that moment, there has been more processing and unpacking. This emotional stuff is complicated. I then felt guilt because there are folks going through a similar journey with cancer who – have it worse, won’t recover, have a high chance of it coming back. My inner voice is saying “Quit your complaining. You made it through and you are fine. We will all die someday – you are not special here.” My inner voice can be a slight asshole if you have not noticed. Luckily my rational voice steps in to say “Kate, your experience is valid. You are ok however you walk this path.”
This was a Facebook post I posted the day after my scan:
“I would like to ask a question and have this be a safe space directed at those of you out there that have gone through cancer treatment:
When the active “getting treatment” phase is done and you are then in the monitoring phase of tests, scans and bloodwork every few months to see if it is gone or has come back – what did that phase and adjustment feel like for you? How did people respond to you after treatment was done? What did that feel like? Anything else you would like to share?
I kind of feel like I have entered a secret club and there are nuances on this side of my experience I never thought about.
Cancer is hard to talk about and everyone has their own experience. My experience is that the post treatment stage is kind of complicated in the spectrum of emotions.
I had my CT scan yesterday. Results next Wednesday. Just thinking about stuff.”
The responses were helpful and heartfelt. It does help to know that others have walked this path. Others that I have seen day to day for years and never knew that cancer was part of their journey in some way. When I said it is like a secret club, it was not an understatement. At the neighborhood Memorial Day potluck this spring my family briefly stopped by to say hello. An energectic kind man that I have known but not seen in a couple of years approached me, gave me a hug and asked “How are you today?”. With that one question I knew that he had experienced cancer in his life in someway. I replied that I was good and followed up by thanking him for asking that question in that way. His eyes had a twinkle of knowing and no other words were needed.
Today, I am good. Today, we are good. Better than good actually because we understand the presciousness of today. There is so much to be thankful for. The weight we put on things everyday – the drama, the nitpicking, the details, they don’t really matter. So much of the stress and unhappiness we bring to our days is unnessary. When your partner upsets you, or your kid annoys you, or someone cuts you off in trafic – breathe, appreciate that breath, assess if it is really worth the stress, concern or upsetness. If it is then breathe again and seek the path to balance or just pause and breathe again. So much discord in humans is unnessary. Let it go folks because today is a gift. Tomorrow is not a promise it is just another gift.
Side note: Jenn the kids and I are on our family vacation. Our famiy vacation last years was canceled due to the surgery and cancer. We have not taken a vacation with the kids in a couple of years. We are having a blast and thankful everyday for the opportunity to step away from work, to afford this trip and spend time with the kids. I have been tapping into my appreciation of life as I am putting on a bathing suit for the first time in a year after not really working out for the past 11 months with my very white legs. Aging is a thing I am embracing (by embracing I mean complaining about with good humor while realizing there is little to nothing I can do about the passing of time regardless of cancer) and I am thankful for this body no matter what it looks like. It’s not always easy to love this skin I am in but it is mine.