A year ago today* I got That Phonecall. You know, the one that nobody wants to get, and that those who have gotten it will never forget, the one that uses words like “malignant.”
It’s been quite a year: nine rounds of chemo, six weeks of radiation, removal of liver and colon and three weeks in the hospital.
I still don’t know how I feel about it.
And how do you celebrate such an anniversary? By meeting with your oncologist, of course.
The year of horrors was very effective. I have no cancer that is detectable by CT scan or blood test. But we’d like to make sure that I have no cancer at all, and the way to do that is more chemo. After running through various options, we decided to repeat what has already worked and do six rounds of FOLFOX, the IV chemo I spent last spring on. There are two other drugs that are used on metastatic colon cancer, avastin and irinotecan, but those are going to be held in reserve just in case. No sense in using all the drugs up front and developing resistance. It’s possible that I have a reservoir of FOLFOX-resistant cancer cells hidden away, but I responded so well to these drugs before that after the surgery and radiation it’s unlikely. And, well, if I do then there are the other drugs available.
I can do this. I did nine rounds already, and know how it works. There’s no longer the frantic air and the panic of last winter. Everything is as under control as it can possibly be. This is prophylactic, not immediately life-saving but a long-term investment. We’re being aggressive now, because I’m determined to have a long term. And chemo isn’t even the hardest thing I did in 2014. Besides, we’d talked once about six months of chemo; three months is considerably less awful.
My oncologist put the orders in while I was there; we’re starting as soon as possible, maybe even next week. I’m healthy enough to get going. Aggressive, remember? And I’d like to get it done and over with so I can spend the summer doing good things.
But it does offer me a dilemma, and one I need to solve quickly. I’m signed up for the Rainforest Writers Retreat in early March. My oncologist has no problem with shuffling dates so that I can go. This is not urgent like last year; moving a week won’t hurt anything. But three rounds in, will I want to travel that much?
I missed so much in 2014, and had so little time to devote to things nonmedical, I’m really longing for this brief escape. But if I’m sick and miserable, it won’t be much of an escape. I will probably cancel for this year, but I’m REALLY REALLY unhappy about it.
I’ve been called for federal jury duty for the entire month of February. I was actually looking forward to seeing how it works, but I think I’d better submit a medical waiver. It seems like “receiving intravenous chemotherapy” is probably an acceptable excuse.
How else does one celebrate such an anniversary? Pillow fort? Dinner out while food is appealing? Drinking heavily? (I haven’t been drinking while my liver grows back, except Christmas, but I’m willing to make an exception here.)
* It was Monday, January 13, 2014. The 13th is tomorrow, but I believe marking this on a Monday is just more appropriate.