The other day, as I waited for news of my MRI, I thought about how it could be the last time not knowing I had cancer. Because it feels like you don’t have cancer until the doctor tells you. It could be something else. It could be nothing. My liver was clear.
But. I went in today to what I thought would be an uneventful follow-up with my oncologist. I talked to her about my neuropathy, which has been flaring up again since Monday, and I added, “I’m happy about the scan, though.”
The liver was clear, but, I have a small tumor now in my pancreas (or what’s left of it after the Whipple). For now, they will keep an eye on it. If it doesn’t grow, then it remains a tenant of my pancreas. If it grows, then they will do a new scan that picks up even the smallest of tumors, and then they could treat it with something that’s currently being approved by the FDA.
But. I will always have cancer. The tumors will probably keep coming back. They will treat it like a chronic disease. I have years. Maybe decades. Steve Jobs had eight years.
I should have known. I let my guard down for a day and a half and now I’m more disappointed that I thought I could be. I was preoccupied with my neuropathy, which flared up with a vengeance. Electric cramps in my foot last night had me howling with pain. I was exhausted, but every time I relaxed enough to fall asleep, a cramp would jolt me awake. After some gabapentin, the pain went away, but the electric current running through my body never left. A friend described it as an “electrical storm.” I fell asleep with my glasses and the light on, because I didn’t want the pain and the cramps to sneak up on me. Against logic, I felt vigilant with sight and light. I fell in and out of restless light sleep, often with a purring cat curled up on my chest. I noticed only this morning that I have a small scratch under my nose from a well-meaning night kneading.
Everything today feels a little surreal and dreamlike because of the lack of sleep and gabapentin. My face is twitchy. I’m so tired and so awake. I’m not sure why it flared up again, though I hadn’t been able to sleep and I had been so concerned about the scan and the healthcare bill vote, I actually worried myself sick.
This is old hat, so I am going through the emotions quickly this time.
Grief: Crying on the train is oddly cathartic. Alone with your grief yet surrounded by strangers. It might be my favorite way to cry.
Self-Pity: I thought of big picture things I’d be giving up first. I have so many things to think about now that things have changed again. It’s like I had just put down my rug–it wasn’t even flat against the floor yet–and it was pulled out from under me.
Anger: When I got to work, I thought of trying to bum a cigarette from one of the smokers outside. Smoking is bad for your pancreas, and I am angry at it. Someone told me, “It could be worse.” That is the wrong thing to say to me right now.
Last night, when I couldn’t go to sleep because of the pain and tingling, I thought, “It could be worse. I could have cancer too. At least my scan was OK.”
Relief/Denial: In a way, knowing that the cancer is forever for me is a relief, because I’ll never have to go through hearing the news again. And again. And again. And again. This fourth time–four and a half if you count the refractory lymphoma not going away–will be the last time.