We’re back from Nashville, and I figured I should provide an update. I offer humble thanks to those who read these posts and for those who are praying for us. I don’t want to post too often, but if you write a post before the tests, you owe it to those who’ve read to give an update afterward. Briefly, my eyes and heart are doing fine, though I may finally be getting some glasses. As for the disease, I’ll just say upfront that my oncologist said, “the scans look ________.” The word in the blank is either “great” or “good” depending on if you ask Kim or me what she said. Regardless, I got up from my chair and gave the doctor a hug. Suffice to say, she is very happy with how the treatment is going, so we all should be too.
Here’s a brief summary: the main tumor is either stable or smaller (great), the node and fluid that were previously described as “worrisome” is not visible on the current scan (great), but there were new, “tiny” nodes found in the lungs which are “worrisome” (there’s that word again). So, if we summarize the past 2 scans, and really, going back years, things show up on a scan that a radiologist terms “worrisome” but that the oncologist says “I’m not worried about it” and then you get a new scan and the previously “worrisome” stuff is gone, affirming the oncologist’s wisdom in not worrying about it, but you see new “worrisome” stuff and the oncologist again says she’s not worried about it, and you’re left confused about what is real or a ruse. I know. It sounds like a line from Bilbo Baggins’ one hundred and eleventh birthday speech. One doc says worry, another says don’t. Scan-to-scan, it’s nodal whack-a-mole. No matter how reassuring my oncologist is, one thing’s for sure, peace of mind is not something with which I typically leave the clinic after a CT scan.
But, as always, the great story unfolds, offering a change in perspective.
As I sat in the treatment chair yesterday, an older gentleman with a walker trudged his way into the adjacent chair. There only to receive fluids to improve his well-being, he moaned and grunted frequently, eyes pinched closed from neck and back pain. Kim and I were very concerned for him. His nurses were, too, and they encouraged him to go to the hospital for care. He refused, and, when the IV bag was empty, asked for his walker, stood, gathered himself, and left to drive himself home. I assume he made it, though I’m sad that he’s alone, and I think it’s dangerous that he’s on the road.
On the way home, Kim asked, “when do you just give up?” She was speaking specifically in regard to this man, but I heard it as rhetorical, so, after a pause, I replied, “never.” It came out weakly, though, my mind attempting to signal my tired body with the reminder that the sun would rise in the morning, as would I. For Kim, the scan results are definitely great news, as there doesn’t appear to be any immediate threat to my life. Now almost a year into the 3rd treatment protocol, Kim is thrilled with what she might consider “bonus time” in this long-term game of whack-a-mole, gaining life with every new day. I still struggle with exhaustion from wielding the whack-hammer, thinking about the life that might be lost if the “worrisome” stuff progresses to real concern. And there lies a critical difference in outlook, one for which I’m so glad my wife reminds me. How I live, my attitude, not only affects the quality of my life but also how my body responds to what I’m very comfortable in calling a fight. Medically speaking, stress causes inflammation, and inflammation is unhealthy.
As most of you probably know, Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. There was an outpouring of support, of course, but a common theme was that his tumor was up against a strong foe, a veteran of battles of various types, well prepared for this new challenge. However, I read an opinion article on CNN that argues that cancer is not a “war, fight, or battle” (read here: Opinion). While I agree on some points, I definitely think that attitude, when facing cancer or any chronic disease for that matter, is critical. It is a fight, and we have to arm ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually, especially in those moments when we might consider giving up. So, while I wish my aged treatment neighbor had accepted medical assistance instead of slumping into the driver’s seat of his car, I appreciate his will to fight. Onward we battle.
As I’ve written before, I don’t practice thinking positively, I believe in living eternally. So, I hope you’ll excuse me as I go to my Happy Place. A place I know I can find peace of mind. But first I’ll arm myself with Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.
“… Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise…”