*deep breath* Ok so tomorrow I have a PET scan. And I’m sort of freaking out about it. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I don’t have any specific symptoms screaming “cancer!!” but anything out of the ordinary plants a seed of doubt. Plants a thought or a twinge that the scan will find something horrible and that this reprieve I’ve been granted will be over before I could even know it. The day before a PET scan is always the most difficult.
For those new to my story, I have stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Long, long story short: melanoma on forehead removed 2011, metastasis to neck lymph nodes found in 2013, surgery (full neck dissection with transplant), head and neck radiation, ipilimumab, metastasis (brain tumor, lungs, and hip bone) found in May 2014, keytruda, and cancer has been held at bay for over a year now. I have officially lived a year and a half after my prognosis said I’d die before Christmas of 2014. It’s still so wild to think about…
So every three months come scan time we do this all over again: the doubt, the fear, the crazy scenarios that play out in my mind non-stop. Torturing me with the pain of imagining my own death. Logically I fully comprehend that I shouldn’t even be here and that I should just be happy with whatever outcome I’m given. But I’m human, and no amount of time will ever seem like enough. I am desperate to see my children (now 5 and 3) grow up. And while that seems like just an insane pipe dream for someone in my shoes, I’m at least desperate for them to be old enough when I pass that they’ll remember me. Why? It’s purely selfish, honestly. I can admit that. I’ve thought this through many many times and that truly is what it is. And to make things even better (worse?) tomorrow, when I have scans and a marathon of appointments at Penn, is my husband and I’s 8th wedding anniversary. What a way to spend it, huh?
Just one blip on the radar could mean the end. And I’m not trying to sound dramatic, that’s just the reality that I am faced with every three months. I’ve lived the last three to the fullest. Everything has been as normal as I could have ever imagined it would be again. When people would ask me how I am and I’d say, “I’m doing really well!” I have actually meant it for the first time in years. It’s been fantastic. And I’m scared it’s gonna end. That it will be taken from me just like that. That I’ll be back to worry, fear, treatments, and being physically helpless all over again.
I will not lie, this is, for whatever reason, a very heavy burden for me to bear. I almost deal better with things when they’re looking bad. But now this mounting anxiety is hitting a fever pitch. Today was my quarterly trip to the dermatologist (only one spot biopsied this time!) and when she asked me how I was doing (I seriously have the best and most caring dermatologist) I couldn’t help but mention that this mental struggle is weighing me down today. “It’s always the day before scans,” I explain, fighting back tears. “Well we’ve all been so impressed with how strong you’ve been through all of this, it’s ok to have tough days.”
Strong. A word I do not think was ever in my life attributed to me before cancer. Courageous? Nope. Brave? Lol…no. Inspiring? Not so much. But when cancer hit, I knew deep down it was an opportunity for me to grow closer with God and so I believe if these things are seen in me then it is only by His grace and mercy.
So right now, at this very moment, I’m really struggling. It was moments like this that I would always pull out the very large laundry basket that I had in a closet downstairs that held all of the cards and notes people had given me since the very beginning of this. I had kept every single one without exception. Well about a month ago, we discovered that a pipe had leaked in that closet and that everything contained in that basket was completely ruined. Gone. It had to be thrown out and I’m just devastated by it right now.
So I’ll just sit here for a while and cry and then head to bed. I feel sad and lonely, and although I certainly have no reason to feel lonely it’s just what happens. I just so desperately want to cling to this normalcy that I’ve been blessed with these past few months. Of course, if it’s not God’s will then I really don’t want any part of it, but it sure would be nice if it was. I mean, I’ve so much wanted to distance myself from this cancer and the identity I have in it that I haven’t even blogged in a long long time. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, I suppose.
I’m just not ready to give this up yet. And it’s selfish and it’s desperate and it’s not even up to me. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Within this frustration is the realization that I have zero control over my own situation.
God’s gonna have to help me work on this.