Yesterday, after my PET scan, I did a little sigh of relief, telling my friend Kathy who took me, “Well, now I can do the next thing.”
Because in the days following a cancer diagnosis, trying to do much more than the next thing can really undo a person.
So, I went to work. Then I went shopping for a new swimming suit. Then I came home. Then, though I was already starting to jump out of my skin in anticipation of the PET scan results, I called the veterinarian’s office. Tilly needs a couple of vaccinations and a check up on the rash on her belly.
But even as I was dialing the number, a thought from earlier kept running through my mind, How can you just work or shop when you have cancer? How can you just schedule a vet appointment when you have cancer? How can you just go on like nothing’s wrong when you have cancer?
As I drove to a friend’s house later in the evening and ate dinner and held her baby and talked about television shows and recipes and weekend plans, I continued to shake my head. My world is falling apart, and I’m acting like it’s not.
But I went to bed wondering what’s the alternative? If I don’t continue to live my life just because I have cancer, what’s the point? Three years ago, when I was faced with a small recurrence only three months after finishing treatment for a terrible diagnosis, I didn’t imagine I would still be around in a year. But because I wasn’t sure what to do in the meantime, I just kept doing the next thing. Before I knew it, the Lord had given me three years.
And as I sat at work today and received the call that this cancer is even smaller and just as treatable as that recurrence three years ago, I realized that if I don’t do what’s next, if I don’t keep making plans and making beds and loving God and loving people, if I just give up, then the next three years until the next recurrence, or the next 40 years until I die, are going to be a big waste of time.
I’m talking a big, hopeful talk here, and I really believe it — most of the time. I haven’t cried at all today, which is a good sign. But I will. There is a surgery in my very near future, and either chemotherapy or radiation. That’s not going to be easy. Nor is undergoing cancer tests every three months for the rest of my life. And wondering about the next time cancer is going to ruin everything.
But I don’t have to worry about all of that right now. The next thing I have to do? Make dinner. Then the next thing? Try on my new bathing suit. After that there is eating brownies with friends and paying bills and watching TV. Over the weekend I’ll see my family and enjoy time with friends and worship the Lord on Sunday.
Cancer treatment is way down on the list of next things right now.
And that’s a good thing.
For those of you who like the facts laid out a little more straightforwardly (and I appreciate you, I do!), here’s what’s next, medically speaking:
1.) My PET scan revealed that the cancer is isolated to the one 2 cm tumor in one of my left exterior iliac lymph nodes – just southeast of my belly button. This is great news because it means that the cancer is most likely not moving and has been there dormant since the initial disease. Also, it will be easy to go in and remove it which makes the outcome much better.
2.) I will meet with the gynecologic oncologist Monday to discuss the type of surgery and when it will be scheduled, as well as the options for follow up care. Hopefully, I will be able to have radiation again, as long as this tumor area is far enough away from the previous radiation field. If not, then I will likely have chemotherapy. This regimen should be less lethal than last time, however, for which I am so grateful.
3.) I am praying that this can all be done in conjunction with several training sessions I am supposed to lead at work in my new position, as well as two trips in September – one to present at a national conference for work and the other to visit friends and attend a writing retreat with my fellow High Calling Editors. I am really looking forward to both of these trips, but of course will be looking to my health care team for wisdom.
4.) I am so thankful for YOU – your continued interest in my life and your deep care and concern for me. I appreciate you all.