Cancer can change quickly. I’m learning that treatments can change too.
From trial back to method.
From Cincinnati back to Columbus.
Receiving the phone call of a relapse can rock you.
Receiving the phone call that the treatment is not working can just crush you.
The first, the relapse phone calls, I’ve done that over and over again. I know how to to respond, what to say on the phone. I know how to snap back in the moment from where you want to emotionally real in the tunnel tornado alongside Dorothy to getting your mind and feet back on the ground to ask questions for directions and a path.
The second of phone calls…all I can say is wow while I’m sitting across Dad at Dewey’s Pizza and on the phone with Dr. P. He informs me that tomorrow they will take me off the clinical trial study because the nodules in my lungs have grown. He said he wanted to call the evening before so that I wouldn’t be shocked tomorrow when they don’t give me the new set of chemo pills and patient diary to fill out, which I appreciate, yes, but everything in me just wants to pick up and leave Cincinnati right now, pick up our belongings from the hotel and head home, head directly to Nationwide Children’s even though no one and no answers will be there by the time we got there late into the evening.
And at the same time, it was like I knew before that phone call that called this whole thing off. Pain was calling me earlier that weekend. Nerves ringing and pain receptors answering. I haven’t felt much pain at all since after the start of the clinical trial for weeks, until the weekend before I headed back down to Cincy for scans.
Your body just knows, and it tries to warn you and tell you. I’m sure there are other cancer patients that must feel similarly to me, that there is this ache that signals you there is something wrong again even when you want to desperately dismiss it. Rewind back to October, before I knew of my relapse and were getting scans to just figure out what was happening with my left numb hand, I just knew. I cried in the parking lot at work knowing days beforehand that cancer was returning, and I didn’t even want to go to the scans to verify it and see. While everyone else was like there is probably nothing wrong, you might have just done something, like a sprain. I don’t do much physical activity, but I do know when the cellular activity is rapidly reactivating.
I mean, this is probably why I panicked as I was officially trying to decide whether or not to be a part of the clinical trial or not. I wonder if my body knew somewhere within me that it wouldn’t work, or was I just being pessimistic and thinking it wouldn’t work so it didn’t?
I keep these thoughts to myself, and still Dad and Dr. P remind me that well we would have never known if this wouldn’t have worked or not if you hadn’t tried it. I know its true, scientific and math men and method men speaking, but I never did well in the sciences in school. And not that I don’t regret doing the trial, but I just wish I hadn’t lost all of this time. It took so much time to figure out if I could get into the trial, to start the trial, to wait and see if this trial is working…time time time. And cancer cells don’t just seem to grow from my flesh’s provisions but also from the provision of time. Dad, the mathematical man and retried middle school teacher, calculates that on average my cancerous nodules are growing almost a mm per week. Cancer grows on time, in time.
So, what do you do?
What do you do?
The same day I returned from Cincinnati and go through the formalities of getting off the study, I come back home to Columbus that evening with a coffee hour to attend. Nationwide Children’s and OSU James have partnered together to host a coffee hour once a month for young adult cancer survivors, and today just happens to be that day. There are only two other survivors this time who come, and it is as if they are bookending my life. There’s Ashleigh, who has been doing the IV chemo I am about to start, and then there’s Jared, who has been cancer free for years and recently engaged. I am literally in-between their cancer worlds it feels. I was just cancer free a few months ago, starting also young adult life like Jared, and now I am Ashleigh again starting treatment once more. They are living and moving cancer mirrors for me, and its not as if I envy one life over another but it just amazes me how quickly we can get back into treatment work and yet how much more time and work it takes to get back to “normal life.”
Where will I be God in the next few months, in the next year?
All I know is where I will be tomorrow, back at the hospital, back getting that IV chemo dosage, back to ports and IV poles and needles. And I will be back at my hospital home instead of Cincinnati.
And I have no idea why my time with Cincinnati was so brief. Why was there any time spend there God? I can’t even really see it or understand it. And will I ever get to understand here in this life? Help me see why you brought me back here.
Pray for me as the needle goes through and the chemo-poison begins again tomorrow. Pray for my body to respond and heal, as well as my mind.
Pray that joy and understanding can come from this, and that joy can still be found even if I don’t ever get to understand why.