Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Comes Next

I have been thinking a lot about what comes next. Obsessing, a little. Five weeks left of treatment.

Five more times in the chair.

I keep envisioning that last day. What will it be like? Will I cry when it's over? Will I laugh or clap my hands or do a little dance? I don't think I can do any of those things as there are people far sicker than I sharing that space, sitting in their own chairs, clinging to hope and working through whatever musters them to be there. That would be rude, wouldn't it, to celebrate end of this leg of the journey when others have so much more to face? But I can't imagine how I will feel at the end of this very long run. When I think of it, tears spring to my eyes.

It will have been twenty four weeks that I will have been in chemotherapy treatment. Nearly six months of my life. Nearly a marathon. In some ways I feel like I am going to be the guy whose body shuts down on the last leg, cratering under the exhaustion and stress from the experience. In others, I feel like I will finish at the end with my chest out, arms held high. Who is to know until I get there. I'm not tempting the Fates again with too much advanced thinking.

But this leads me to the next thing (ah HA FATES). What comes next? How will I know if I have cancer again? I asked my nurse practitioner the other day and she said "well, we look for signs and symptoms." Signs and symptoms? That's all? We get to wait until things are far enough along that I really start to notice that something is up? What about tests? What about some sort of imaging? Wait and see? What the hell?

A few weeks ago, Ava and I were standing in a local bagel shop behind another woman and her daughter. This gal had the telltale bald head so I looked over at Ava and said "See, this lady has no hair just like mom!" The woman and I struck up a conversation and she asked "Is this your first time with breast cancer?" I must have looked a little shocked as I said "uh, my first" because she said, kind of softly, "oh, it's my second. I mean, I had a good ten years in between..." and her voice kind of trailed off. I looked from her beautiful daughter who must have been only 18 to my beautiful daughter who would only be 15 if I had ten years and my blood ran cold.

Ten years.

Being this close to the end also makes me realize that I don't know if I can go through this again. I know I will if I have to because I love my children and my husband and my people and don't want to leave them, but the thought of going through this again just is kind of beyond me.

I know it's hard for my friends who are surviving breast cancer to read this blog because it brings back too much stuff. I have an acquaintance on FB who is struggling through recurrence now. This is the part that I didn't want to think about. This is the part, near enough but far enough away, that scares me.

Ten years.

If I could be so lucky? Is that the way to be thinking about this?

Maybe it will mean I will live my life better, differently. Maybe I will make better choices with my time, think about the future in shorter chunks, not waste energy on situations and irritants that do nothing to fill my bucket. Maybe thinking in terms of ten years would be a blessing.

But ten years is not enough time to do the things I want to do with my life. I have plans, people. I have things to see, I have trips to take, I have communities to build, I have people to love, I have kids to marry off, I have grand babies to hold, I have a retirement home in Seattle to buy...I have plans.

So what comes next? What do you see for me?

1 comment:

  1. I think all the time, well, how much time would be reasonable? Ten years - well, that would make Arthur 21, he'd be in college, through high school. But not married, no grandchildren, so retirement with Russell, being old people together. That's not right. Fifteen years? I'd be 60. That's still young these days. Other people would have 20 more years, so that can't be right. And I have to live longer than my parents. That's a given. My parents CANNOT outlive both their children. That would be insane. So yes, I'm completely with you on hoping this will make me live better, wiser, but that would be a whole heap easier if someone could tell me HOW long.
    I can't say what's next for you, but I do know it includes you and I drinking very expensive cocktails in a wonderful bar somewhere next year, both of us with at least some of our own hair. That I can say for sure.