Basically, I went in for my half way PET scan a week ago Monday and the results show no trace of cancer in my body. That’s right: Zero. Zip. Nada. I realize this is big news and I’ve been chastised for not making a bigger deal of it, which I think warrants an explanation:
First, there were just words on a lab report that said things like “lymph nodes considerably smaller” and “no evidence of hypermetalbolic activity” – which SOUNDS good, but I wasn’t quite sure what it all meant. If I still have lumps, I still have cancer, right?
After talking to Dr. Fishman, I learned that lumps might never fully go away, even when the cancer does, and “no evidence of hypermetalbolic activity” is just fancy medical speak for “when we feed you radioactive dye and look at your insides, all those areas that used to light up orange on the computer, showing us where the cancer is, don’t light up anymore.” My doctor here even used the “R” word (considering I still have five chemo treatments to go, I think it’s a little premature and am superstitious about actually saying it out loud, but let’s just say it rhymes with “schremission”)
A little back story for those of you that didn’t already know: when I was first diagnosed, I decided to leave my apartment in New York and move down to DC to get treatment so I could be closer to Annie and Charlie. Even with the decision to get treated in DC, it’s still good to have a second opinion and Memorial Sloane Kettering in New York is one of the best when it comes to all things cancer. My friend Mia hooked up me up with her oncologist, Dr. Matt Matasar, so I made the trek back up to New York just before I started chemo in September, to get his take on my situation. He helped me understand that twelve rounds of chemo with no radiation seemed best for me, but to come back and see him once I was half way done to re-evaluate. He also told me to keep taking Japanese mushroom supplements because they are cancer butt-kickers. He’s a smart guy. Plus he’s also a hugger, which I appreciate.
I didn’t want to make any announcements until after I had that follow-up appointment with Dr. M because I felt like hearing it from him would make it more real. And when everything else in your world feels like echoes of life down the rabbit hole, reality is an important, and sometimes elusive, touchstone. I saw him yesterday and basically he concurred. In fact he said I get an “A+” which hasn’t happened since sophomore year of college, so I’ll take it.
I’m grateful, really I am. It’s just that the irony of it all is hard to digest sometimes: before I got diagnosed -- even though I actually had cancer -- I felt totally fine. Once I started chemo, I felt sick and nauseous and achy and frail and well, like a cancer patient. And even with this encouraging diagnosis, I still have to finish the rest of my chemo (think how they make you finish the entire course of antibiotics even after your throat stops hurting) and while I realize that in the big scheme of life, two and a half months might not seem like a lot of time, it feels a lot longer when everything tastes like Drain-o.
Basically, as my sister puts it, I’m a cancer-free cancer patient (who still feel s like a for-real cancer patient.) And since I also know enough people who have been declared cancer-free, just to have that title wrenched from them a few months later with another test, I’m also a cautious cancer-free cancer patient.
On the other hand, I’m also an optimistic cancer-free cancer patient who believes strongly that thoughts become things and “science, it works bitches,” so here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to have a very small nip of the real bubbly tonight to celebrate, because I feel it’s necessary and also that God would want it that way. But I’m saving the real celebration for when I’m done with chemo and get that all-important last scan that confirms that the storm is over, the house has hit its mark and I can rock the ruby slippers with confidence. Then we will bust out good stuff, open the drink umbrellas and party like rock stars. Until then, I’m going to keep my “ding dongs” to a faint, but triumphant, whisper.