I went to my oncologist for a check-up yesterday and to get the results of Monday’s scans. It was the shortest, most boring, oncology visit ever, good news all the way around. My scan was CLEAN, no new metastasis. The old cancer is the same old cancer, in the same dilapidated state.
NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE
My oncologist brought a nurse practitioner into the practice and it was the NP who came through the door this time and not my doctor. My first thought was my scans must be good because Nancy wouldn’t let a new NP deliver bad news to me. It took the NP a few seconds to get around to talking about the results and those were the longest thirty seconds in a lifetime filled with holding my breath for scan results. She told me the news and we briefly discussed my progress and my labs and meds and all of those other things. We shook hands and she left.
The minute the door closed, I hopped off the exam table and my knees gave way. I stayed there on the floor, head bowed, hand gripping the table, and let the tears flow. I don’t cry, often, not at all, really. Actually, I cry all the time but over things like a great and hokey rendition of The Star Spangled Banner or news stories about firemen rescuing a dog from a frozen lake, you know, the really important things in life. In the fifty-four months since I was diagnosed with end stage cancer, I can count the number of times I’ve cried about my own situation on one hand and if we exclude my therapist’s office, I only need half a hand.
I don’t know if I can ever describe to you what it feels like to get this reprieve one more time. Gratitude. Humility. Joy. Relief. They all come in the first wave. Responsibility. Determination. Accountability. Rebelliousness. Fearlessness. Those come next.
I don’t know why I get to live and so, so, so, many other people don’t. Better people than me. Better artists than me. Better friends than me. Better mothers. Better daughters. It makes no sense. There is no rational argument for why Roger Ebert and David Bowie are dead and I’m alive. None. Yet, this is the state of the universe. This is the planet we live on. This is the system and the rules we live with.
After my appointment, I did what any sensible human being would do and took myself to brunch. Brunch is the word well-off white people use for day drinking. I had a Bloody Mary with some bread products, bacon and patè, with a side of more bread and some baked goods. I gave the waitress my secret recipe for the best fucking homemade hot chocolate you’ve ever had and a very big tip.
I left and asked myself what would be the best way to celebrate the day. And I decided errands and talking to my girlfriends on the phone because that is winning. That is really winning, when you kick the shit out of cancer for the fourth year running and then simply go back to living your fucking life, like nothing happened at all.