And I’m home. The rest of the tubes, staples, and bandages were removed from my body this morning, pain med scrips were written, and with a simple, “have a good day,” I was sent off the 6th floor and to the car. I’ve spent the day getting accustomed to my home environment again, hanging out with the kittens on the bed, spending time with Laura and…well…just figuring out what this new routine is going to be. Going into surgery this time I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but since everything happened so unexpectedly, so quickly, so easy this time, I don’t even know what to expect from the recovery at home. Last year I took my drug ridden body out for a run a couple months later, but I’ve already begun joking about getting on the treadmill in a couple weeks, but I’m not entirely sure I’m joking. Right now, I just don’t know what to think.
That, however, is just the physical considerations of recovery. There are also the emotional aspects that have left me floating, unable to really commit to a perspective on my overall situation at this point. For the past year and 3 months I’ve resided in this place of resignation, where the idea of “curing” my cancer is just too far out to imagine. A place where I’m more concerned with living as passionate and rewarding a life as I can muster despite all my physical complications and limited abilities. A place where cancer seems to be an unending reality.
The difference in my perspective and what I mostly read from other cancer patients is this resignation, this acceptance of my circumstance. Everyone else seems to be “fighting”, expecting a cure, waiting out their treatments until the oncologist can hand over the NEC milestone. But my cancer has never positioned itself in this way. Mine isn’t beaten by a determined set of chemo treatments, nor is marked by a deep set of data and reliable survival percentages. I’ve always just been living with the hope that I can make the most of my time and wait for what is to come down the line.
But it feels different now. I just went through this second surgery, the surgery which is the greatest determinant of “curing” my cancer, of which I thought wasn’t even going to be an option. So just getting to the surgery was a huge victory, and it felt that way. But, now it’s over. And it was “successful” as much as it could be. The cancer is still there, yes, but that doesn’t mean a significant victory wasn’t achieved. Although anything can change, the procedure alone extends both my lifespan and quality of life far ahead. We’re no longer waiting to see if I make it to next year. We’re no longer waiting to see how I handle the ravages of chemotherapy. And so I’m not sure what to think of that.
Did we just “beat cancer” in some way? Am I supposed to feel victorious?
Something feels different though. The surgery was a “success” and the hospital recovery was shockingly quick, leading me to hope that the same follows at home, which has left me having to adapt to new expectations at home. I thought I would be laid out for a long time, just like last year…and although I most definitely will need a lot of down time, I’m starting to think I’ll be pushing back sooner rather than later. Maybe I won’t have to “wait it out” as long as I thought, and can get back to expected and new routines sooner, which is forcing me to reconsider plans.
And with the decision to forego chemotherapy post-surgery, I’m adjusting to that new realization too. The past year my schedule has been dictated by chemo treatments. Infusions every three weeks. Pills every other week. The schedule and the effects determined my days, dictated my activities…but no more. For the time being, the blank slate of my life and little else lies before me. Now, I’m not devoid of the considerations of cancer by any means. I’ll be going in for CT scans to check on the growth/recession/etc. of the cancer every few months, which will undoubtedly take it’s emotional toll, but overall, I have very little holding me back. And that feels like victory to me.
Because then comes running. And it’s going to come. From a mile run on the treadmill to greater efforts to strength and endurance, it’s going to come, and I’m going to do it right. I’m going to have form evaluations, schedule a training plan, commit to strength and flexibility, and basically do everything exactly right this time. Because I have another chance…and although this may change, for the undetermined future, it feels like I have another shot at running again, another shot at doing it right. And THAT feels like my greatest victory.
But let’s not mince words. I have cancer. It is not gone and may return with a vengeance…this possibility will haunt me the rest of my life…but for now, it feels like we’ve overcome something huge. We’ve hit, not a finish line, but maybe an aid station. A place to recover before starting again, before making a surge to the finish. And this feels great. I’m tentative in embracing this emotional state full on, knowing that I’m not in the clear, but there is an undeniable sense of relief, of strength, of victory, that is forcing me to reconsider my life into the coming year.
This race goes on, but as the miles fall away behind me, I can start to imagine what that finish line victory is going to feel like.
Until then, we have more work to do. See you on the streets friends.