I haven’t posted in awhile. I guess it’s because I’ve been out there “living my life.” This is a good thing.
I’ve been to New York for vacation this summer, where I walked a slow five miles in the heat. And I’ve been to Arizona for a business trip with Marshall. And I just got back from Florida for Thanksgiving with my family. The business trip went well. New York and Florida were home exchanges, and both were really amazing!
In between, I’ve been up and down energy-wise. Sometimes I feel pretty good. Other times I feel pretty tired. I’ve stayed healthy, though – no sinus infections like I used to get every year starting in fall and coming and going all the way to the following summer. So that is great, too.
But there’s some not-as-great stuff, too.
I had my most recent MRI a few weeks ago, and at first the results were very good – no changes. Then the final report came back and some of the scar tissue in my head had thickened a bit. Minimally, but it is a change. It could just be my scar tissue being a little inflamed. Or it could be nothing. Or it could be the beginning of the tumor regrowing. It’s hard to say. They are going to watch it, of course. The doctor says “go live your life…”
It’s kind of funny that after pretty much sailing through an awake craniotomy I’ve found this little blip on my MRI to be really quite difficult to deal with. It makes me understand on a deeper level that this cancer is a type that does come back. There really are no two ways about it.
I’d been eating such healthy food and had been so well in terms of not getting colds or sinus infections that the healthy diet almost began to feel like a talisman against my brain tumor growing back. In fact, it is kind of hilarious how well I look, and how people who haven’t seen me in awhile always comment on how healthy I seem to be.
And I am healthy, in a way. I just have this really serious sickness, too. How odd this is for me. So very, very weird. The embodiment of paradox.
So my hope has been that by eating incredibly well I could help put myself on the long end of the tail in terms of lifespan for someone with my type of cancer. And I still hope for this – I am giving it my all. I work hard at it every day, with neurofeedback, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, cranial sacral therapy, osteopathic work, attitude and spirit adjustments, diet and exercise (well, working on the exercise!).
But what I’ve realized is that doing all this is not a talisman. It all helps me, there is no doubt about it. It may very well lengthen my number of days. But it doesn’t “save” me from my illness or from the larger journey that I must face and live out.
A couple of weeks ago, Marshall and I had the chance to make a financial decision that we’d been thinking about making “for retirement.” And I suddenly realized that it is very possible – even likely – that I will not make it to retirement in the ordinary sense of that word. Boy, did that thought stop us both in our tracks like a sucker punch to the gut.
We talked it over together. No use pretending the elephant wasn’t in the room. It was sad on a whole new level. I mean man, really sad. How does one plan for the future in a situation like mine? You can’t go on exactly like you would have before – the future is, indeed, a different one now. But then again, I didn’t really know what the future would be before I got cancer. I just thought I did. So I thought I could plan for it.
But now I have to plan differently, somehow balancing pure, unadulterated hope with pure, unadulterated reality. I have never known, exactly, what healing might look like for me – the cancer never growing back or simply a heart transformed into something both strong and tender enough to undergo the path I must walk. So I pray for healing, not really knowing what that will mean. I touch my head where the tumor was when I pray for it; it seems to be the place where hope and reality intersect.
Before, when I planned for the future I would think of that future as “mine,” something I already had: my future, a perfectly healthy future.
I still have a future. In fact, I think I probably still have the exact same future I was going to have when I was planning for something entirely different and entirely wrong.
So what have I lost in terms of my future? Perhaps only my own misconceptions. In reality, no one knows what their future will be like. I was going to be a doctor. I was going to have a big family. I wound up with something different, and, as it turns out, something even better. Sometimes, what you get is even better than what you wanted.
Sometimes, that’s not true. Having cancer is hard. But it’s funny, I can’t get myself to type “and I don’t want it” because, weirdly, that’s not true. I have always strived to want to be myself, not someone else. I’ve worked hard to not compare myself to others, to not want what others have instead of what I have. And I have cancer. If I don’t want it, then I reject my life as it is. And I don’t. I can’t. I love my life. I’m incredibly grateful for it.
I am still planning for my future, although I realize that I have to be flexible. Right now, what I’d really like to do is to walk the Camino in Spain this summer with my family. It’s a pilgrim trail, and I am feeling pretty pilgrim-y right about now.
On the trail, making the journey. Step-by-step.