I have many friends who are captivated—and I mean that in the “imprisoned” way—by news of the US administration. Every tweet or policy shift pulls them into a world they wish didn’t exist and that they struggle to understand.
My in-box is sort of like that these days. Each day offers a new piece of news about my body, my cancer, news that I wish I didn’t have to know about, that I struggle to understand, and that I can’t ignore.
This week, though, the news in my in-box at least has been trending positively (I still shudder to open the New York Times). The most frightening number of all is the Cell Search Circulating Tumor Cell number. I was worried enough about it that I asked the Block Center to send the results to my mom and not to me, so I wouldn’t open an email in the middle of a program and learn something I didn’t want to hear (been there, done that). If the number is less than 5, your prognosis is good. If it’s more than five, your prognosis is grim. You’ll notice this leaves very little wiggle room—and I was so so hoping to wiggle.
Yesterday I got an email from my mother with the subject line “Great news!” My mother is not given to hyperbole or exclamation marks, so I opened it fast. I had wiggled out of the danger zone. My number was ZERO. That is literally the best outcome from that test that is even possible. I sat on the bed in my hotel room in Melbourne, one sock on as I was getting ready to go to a meeting, and I cried with relief. I didn’t even know I was that anxious until the anxiety was lifted.
And there are more good things. I’ve found out that my 2016 cancer was much less aggressive than my 2014 cancer. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m pretty sure it can’t be bad news.
I’ve also found out that my other blood work was fantastic. Neither my blood work nor my fitness test look like the labs of a woman who has had five surgeries, chemo and radiation in the last four years. There’s no guarantee, but I’m hoping they don’t like like the labs of a woman who will ever have cancer again.
I’d like to pause right there and just feel delighted with all that good news. I have failed such a high percentage of my medical tests—even as a mediocre high school student I didn’t fail so many tests. And these past years have been a hard slog, healthwise. But the tests that have always mattered the most are the ones that are about stage 4 cancer, and thank God I’ve never failed those. These Block Center and Mark Renneker tests are about trying to be sure I never fail that test.
And even with the good news (and oh it is such good news) there’s still so much uncertainty. And so many decisions. None of these tests gives me any assurance that the cancer won’t return; they just give me hope that the odds of its return are less than they could be. Given that, how do I think about which drug regimen to pursue? (Keith Block says it’s nearly a flip of the coin, but it’s not safe to fail.) How do I know how much to change my life? And what do all these things really mean, anyway? There are so many confusing components right now.
On Tuesday I have my next mammogram—the next big hurdle for me to pass. I will try to study hard.
PS Photo today is from a tiny holiday to Fiji with Naomi and Silke. Rainbows at dawn with perhaps the hint of danger…