Spike and I went to the cancer agency a few days ago to get her quarterly blood test results. The doctor cheerfully said to Spike that she was (and I quote) disgustingly healthy. Yes! Woo hoo! We love hearing superlatives attached to the word “healthy”.
Here’s the thing I wanna share, though…
Funny thing. The chemotherapy side-effects look like the disease itself. So when a cancer patient finishes the chemo that’s 3/4 killing them in hopes of all-the-way killing the cancer cells, and they start looking more like a regular human again, and being able to walk around the block without pausing to rest six times… well, it just seems like they’re better. Folks congratulate them on beating cancer.
Except… cancer is the monster that waits around the corner. Surgery carves out all the cancer that can be seen and reached. Chemo tries to kill any remaining cells. Then the patient is discharged, and… and… waits seven goddamn years for a clean bill of health — waits to find out if the radical surgery and the shocking illness caused by chemo did the job. The intervening time is spent (1) enjoying the heck out of life and (2) if one values ones sanity, not thinking too much about the monster that may be laying in wait.
Here’s more info on recurrence: Dancing with NED
I restrain myself from peering fearfully around corners. But still…
Here’s the problem:
Both Spike and I do well in adverse situations if there’s something to be done about them.
“In order to survive this, I gotta move this mountain from this place to that place? Okay, lemme get my shovel.”
So the whole freakish last year has been a lot of work (each of us with different things to do), and lot of enduring the shitty stuff, and a lot of planning and changing our diet to eliminate chemicals and hormones and additives and such… and even cleaning the doorknobs when Spike’s immune system was down, and, well, there was always so much to do. And with a great deal of help from our friends, we did it.
And here we are, on the other side of the treatment, with nuthin’ to complain about… and now I’m more frightened than I have words to express.
I wouldn’t want to experience my life without Spike in it. She’s wise and warm and brave and funny and she matches me like no other. Her kindness inspires me. Her insight makes me think. I love her because of who she is in the world, and you should too. I will marry her, and in doing so will become the luckiest person alive.
On a visceral level, if I imagine a time when I can’t roll over in the morning and see her smiling at me from the next pillow over, I feel like curling up in a ball and crying. If I imagine a time when I can’t turn excitedly to her and share some new knowledge, or talk over a trouble… the pang of loss — just from imagination — feels like a stab wound. And when I consider the possibility of a recurrence of her cancer taking her from me… I experience terrible feelings of fear and helplessness.
Because, you see, we can’t just plunge in and apply hard work to make the best outcome. We did that part, and we continue to do healthy lifestyle kinda stuff, and besides that we don’t really have any control left, besides avoid-high-tension-power-lines and don’t-get-a-coal-burning-chimney. Our future together is dictated by a toss of the cellular dice, tossed by a universe indifferent to personal loss. And every three months, we go see a doctor, who matter-of-factly reports on the results of the toss.
So for those of you who wonder why I spend a week out of every three months walking around with my teeth chattering — now you know. But I guess it’s the only game in town.