First the good news, I am 1-year cancer-free. All the MRIs came back clean. Both the neurosurgeon and oncologist are very happy with my progress. God willing, if the next brain MRI comes back clean I will not need to make an appointment with the neurosurgeon and because the oncologist is so happy with my progress she changed my follow-up MRI schedule from every 3 months to every 6 months.
Now to the honest truth, I think I was a little naive when I ended the 365 Days of Carol Anne project and declared that this blog would no longer be about cancer and everything that surrounds my post cancer progress. I think the reason I am stumbling and searching for what to write about is because I’m not writing about my day-to-day struggles. If you were to read my Facebook you’d read about lunches with friends and days out in the city taking pictures. What you would not find is how hard I’m finding it to get on with the business of living my life.
I have had a hell of a time writing this post. I’ve always written as honestly as I can about this whole experience and I just couldn’t reach inside and find the raw honesty or words. It wasn’t until I took this photo Sunday night and titled it, You Cannot Have What’s Left of Me (it’s not yours to take) that the words began to form and finally flow. I don’t think people, myself included, understand that cancer is not over once treatments are done. I certainly never imagined myself still dealing with the physical and emotional fallout almost 2 years later. There is a commercial for one of the cancer centers that shows the patient ringing a bell after their last treatment. I was morbidly fascinated with this during my treatments. Would I ring a bell? Would there be a triumphant parade-like celebration at the end of my treatments? What would, God willing, my last day of treatments be like? Would I be full of elation and anxious optimism? On that day I was relieved and exhausted and a little weepy and a lot grateful. I was also scared that it would only be a temporary end. You walk out the door from the last treatment and you are not in the clear. The fear and the anxiety do not just roll away because treatments are over.
The happy ending bell-ringing Mardi Gras parade-like commercials don’t tell you that the truth of the matter is you don’t walk out of there secure in the knowledge that you’re cured, or at least I didn’t. There are follow-up tests for quite a few years. The possibility always exists that it can come back. There are milestones to pass. My first MRI after radiation treatments ended showed “something” in the Dura, it could have been damage from the surgery or damage from the radiation treatments or it could have been residual tumor. We wouldn’t know anything until my follow up MRI in October. So from August to October we were unsure whether or not the surgery and 32 radiation treatments got all the cancer. Blessedly the MRI in October found no evidence of tumor.
So here I am, life is as normal as life is going to get. It’s time to pick myself up and get back to the business of living but I’ve grown timid and lazy. I don’t know how to break out of that. I feel lost. I’m not sure what I want to do anymore. I tie myself up with the need for perfection and end up paralyzed with fear. I don’t know how to just do and make it up or learn as I go. I wish I were back in high school (I so totally don’t except I do) and there were guidance counselors to help show me the way.
I am a little lost and a lot unsure. I am broken, but I am not unfixable. My core is still intact and it’s mine. I don’t know where I go from here or how I go about doing it. But know this cancer, you cannot have what is left of me. It is not yours to take. The time will come when I am whole again. I am not the same, I am older and wiser and perhaps one day I will be better for having taken this journey.