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My oncologist was very happy to give me my pathology report two Fridays ago (March 11th) when I went to see him at UVA. It was not just good news, it was “great” news – the kind of news neurooncologists wish they could tell all of their patients every day of the year, but can’t. Because the news that neurooncologists generally have to tell patients is pretty hard stuff.

The bottom line is that my brain tumor was what they thought it was. The dog barked.  The prognosis is much, much better than it could have been. It’s the best we could have hoped for, in fact.

I don’t have to have chemo or radiation right now. They are going to do another functional MRI in May and will continue to follow me closely.  For a long time.

I want to be grateful for this.  I want to share my oncologist’s joy. But I don’t.

I am usually a cockeyed optimist.  Ask Marshall – I am the person in the family who almost always sees the glass as half full. But right now I just can’t quite see it that way. This past week, I’ve felt like the life I’ve always expected has been radically and forever altered – so altered that it is, in effect, gone.

Yes, the prognosis the doctor gave me was “great” in comparison to what it could have been.  But it is still, probably – how can I tactfully say it?  Limiting.

I’m intentionally being vague about my prognosis.  Let me be.

I have not blogged until today because I’m still trying to process all this prognosis stuff.  I want to be grateful for the “great” news – but honestly, I am not.  Who wants to hear they might not live as long as they always envisioned they would?  Who wants to grasp uncertainty by the hand and invite her to the dinner table each and every night to eat with the family?  Who wants to grapple with all the mortality questions that keep bubbling up now:  Will I see old age?  Will I meet future generations of my family?  Will I write all those books I was planning (but was too scared) to write? What about all those ideas I was so excited to think through?  What am I going to do with the life I am given – no matter how long that life ends up being?

If I am honest with myself, these questions are the same as they were before my brain cancer diagnosis.

I’ve been asking myself these types of questions for a long time.  Good thing for me – otherwise, I would have been completely blind-sided by them in the last two months.  Even so, there is more urgency about them now.  Perhaps this is because now it doesn’t feel like I have all the time in the world to answer them.

Actually, before my diagnosis I always believed I knew the answers:

  • I would live a a long, healthy life;
  • I’d “always” be there for my family;
  • Of course I’d write all those books and noodle out all those questions.  At some point. When I got around to it.

But these weren’t real, true answers. They were delusions – placeholders, default answers, assumptions I’d made for the life-narrative I was weaving. I was going to do this and that.  My life story was going to be like this and that. After all, I’d planned it that way.

The real, true answer would have been that I had no idea what my life was going to turn out like.  I had hopes, yes.  Plans, yes.  Dreams, yes.  I knew – or thought I knew – how I wanted my life to be.  I lived secure in the happy illusion that I controlled far more about my life than I actually did.

Then I was diagnosed with brain cancer.  And I learned that the real, true answer is that I have very little control over what my life will look like – or how long it will be.

The reality is that life is a gift.  Each and every moment.  There are no promises.  No guarantees.  Just the moment.  Just the gift.

After we live for awhile, we start taking the gift for granted – we begin assuming that the next moment (and the next and the next) will always be there.  This is a faulty assumption.  It won’t always be there.

But it is there right now.  So I’m focusing on now.  It’s what I’ve got, and I’m going to take advantage of it while it is here.

And you know what?  Thinking about it that way makes me truly grateful to have it.

 

 


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33 Comments on "My prognosis. And my reaction."

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Suzanne Morrone
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Although our stories are different, I have gone through this exact same thing. In my case, a very healthy ME, thin, ex-dancer me, vegetarian me, perfect blood pressure, cholesterol and exercise history and no family history of heart problems me, had a major heart attack, where I went into arrest. I have damage. I now have heart failure. And all my assumptions about my future changed. As my husband said, “Every blade of grass has changed.” So while my mom is still going strong at 100 plus, I am looking at a much shorter lifespan. I also have to live… Read more »
Cathy Bentley Ramsey
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Fran: I am so overjoyed to hear about your prognosis. You discuss fear over writing books, and an uncertain future. I am ashamed to say that until this point, I have been fearful of contacting you. What if I didn’t say the right thing, or couldn’t offer the right advice? Quite simply I have held back from connecting because of the fear of not knowing what to say. You and Hannah stood loyally by my and Kelly’s side when Dad died. I hadn’t seen you in 20+ years, but it was like yesterday. I love your smile, witty intelligence, and… Read more »
Amy Peck Murphy
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I can only say, Fran, that I understand your ambivalence about the oncologist’s “joy” in his declaration. It is you, and you alone, who are left with the now-palpable uncertainty ahead. Every time I face my three-month checkup (CA-125 marker and pap smear, done as monitoring for Uterine Papillary Serous Carcinoma’s “possible” recurrence) it reminds me of my mortality and of life’s limitations. It is a cloud faced most profoundly by those of us who find ourselves on this journey. Yes, supposedly we all know that life is precious and that it can end in a single moment, at any… Read more »
George Carras
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Hi Fran: You are a courageous person – you inspire me w/ your courage, realism and bold reflection. I empathize entirely w/ the uncertainty of your situation as my plight is similar since all my drs can offer me is I will get worse and they do not know what to do. In spite of that I press on through work, getting things done according to my own pace,, prayer and seeking to search out to others as I am able. Your Elton John outing was inspiring. Prayers to you and your Hannah, We all need hope – it binds… Read more »
Teresa Fannin
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I believe the best any of us can do is live. When I was younger I worried–we almost lost our younger daughter at 30 days…terrifying. We did everything to save her and, God loves us, we did. Today she is a mother. I still struggle with regrets and possibilities, but, again, God loves us…the choices are his and I pray for peace and mercy all the time. I pray the same for you too.

Jeanne
Guest

Beautiful news; beautifully written. So pleased.

Phil
Guest

Following your progress with interest. Your positive attitude is, in itself, therapeutic.

Jackie Pynaert
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Hey Fran. Sending you a private fb PM. Check for it. 🙂

Teri Brown
Guest

I was diagnosed with a pituitary gland tumor in about 2003 or there abouts. 12 hour brain operation, radiation, etc. If you want to talk, hit me up.
Teri

Claire duFief Greer
Guest

So proud to know you ! Your honesty in dealing with this illness and your battle is amazing! Keep strong and stay true to who you are! Xo big big hug! Claire

Judy Zacgar
Guest

Amen!!

Paige Schreiner
Guest

Fran, thank you for sharing your experience, and your big thoughts on life… your blog is a gift! Prayers and hugs.

Chris Schnittka
Guest

Yes. Yes. We should all be so awake. 🙂

Ricardo
Guest

Beautiful because it’s true.

Herb Ely
Guest

I understand self-delusion. Glad to read the news and thanks for your honesty. It is part of the foundation for your complete recovery. Blessings.

Patty McCarthy
Guest

I love this post and happy about your prognosis. I recently lost my dad to ALS and that gave me a similar reminder to seize the day and appreciate what I have.

Elmer
Guest

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. Never give up. Carpe diem!

MO
Guest

“Here, here” Fran! I am so grateful to have you in my life!

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