As some of you may know, I went and saw my oncologist this past Tuesday and got another treatment of the pd-1 drug (Keytruda, mk-3475, whatever you want to call it!). I see him every three weeks before treatments. What you may not have known was that I went in to see him with a very specific question on my mind: I wanted to know my prognosis.
The definition of a “prognosis” is the likely course of a disease or ailment. For me, I wanted to know only one part of that: how much time?
So he comes in the room and it’s your typical chit chat, of course he was really pleased about how things are going right now. For those that don’t know, the pd-1 drug seems to be working really, really well for me at this time. As in, nothing lit up on my PET scan, not even in the places (lungs, brain tumor, hip bone) where the cancer lit up last time.
Typically, we sit there, he asks a bunch of questions and types into his computer while I answer. So I kinda start prodding a little.
“So, things look good now, how long does that usually last?” I know already that he can’t give me an answer to that. The drug is so new and has had wildly varying reactions. Melanoma is a very unpredictable cancer to begin with, then add in a drug that’s so new it’s not even FDA approved yet? Yeah, it’s a crapshoot. For some people, like myself, it seems to work great. For others, it doens’t work at all. And how long will it work? I knew he couldn’t tell me. But he kept repeating one word, as if it was supposed to be comforting to me, “Months.” He then added, “We can’t know for sure, could be years, but definitely months. In other words, a very long time.”
Months. In what other circumstance could months be considered a very long time? Months is supposed to comfort me?? I felt like he was trying to reassure me with these words.
So that made me curious. “So what would my prognosis have been if the drug hadn’t worked?”
He stops typing and looks at me, “Really bad. Really, really not good. The cancer was exploding all over your body, in typical cases like this, it wouldn’t have been long.”
It was in this moment, this time, that I felt I got my perspective back. I got my clarity back. I had been in such a fog, not knowing how to take the news that the cancer was, at least for now, tamed. Months. *deep breath* Months. That’s not so bad! I could accomplish a lot in that time frame!
Up until this point, this visit, this momentary act of bravery, I had been too scared to know, too scared to ask. Google had given me more than enough to go on, including a likely timeline. But I had never asked the man who knows the most about my specific situation. Why?? Fear. No doubt there. Did I really want to know? Would I then limit myself to that amount of time thinking that he was going to be right? Would I get depressed? Basically, it came down to, could I bear knowing? And the answer up until now was, no. Definitely not.
I remember when I was first diagnosed and was still stage 3 and someone I ran into who had heard and has, let’s say, a very medically inclined occupation, looked right at me and asked, “So what’s the prognosis? How many years?” How many years?? I was appalled by this. In my mind, there was no prognosis, I would go about the course of the treatments, and then remain stage 3 with no evidence of disease indefinitely. No “prognosis” about it. And then, of course, everything changed, got bumped to stage 4, and the cancer began spreading wildly. And here I am now, celebrating months.
So, back to Tuesday. I was sitting in there, getting my chemo, reading my Bible, and listening to Hillsong (no, I’m not a stalker and no, I don’t get a commission from them lol), and as I was reading in John, I was reminded of a few things:
1. Jesus understood. He felt the same things we feel. I know this already, but sometimes when I really feel it, it seems like the revelation of a lifetime. He was anxious, and had to convince Himself to stay the course so that God could get the glory. Check this out from John 12:
2. Jesus only lived to be 33. And His ministry didn’t start until He was 30. That’s a very short time by our standards, but the whole course of humanity was changed by it. The amount of time isn’t what matters. Quality over quantity, right?
3. Yes, it hurts to hear that I may not be around for my family for as long as I’d like, but acceptance is key in this cancer game. So much of this journey is about finding acceptance where we are. Accepting any of it is hard, sometimes even the good news, as I proved in my little pity party a few weeks ago haha. And I am not discounting God in any part of this. He can use this situation, this cancer as He wishes, use me as He wishes. I am open to the nudging of the spirit, more so now than I ever have been.
So, in short, I accept this challenge. Months? Ha!! Obviously, Dr. A doesn’t know how competitive I am!!