So last week I was tested to determine whether or not the 24 rounds of chemo I received over the past six months were successful in eliminating the cancer left in my body after surgery.
I had prepared myself for a "thumbs sideways" result (something between a thumbs up and a thumbs down). I fully expected to be told there were some questionable spots that would need watching, and that we'd just have to wait and see.
Normally I hate "wait and see." Post-treatment, however, my expectations had lowered to the point that I would gladly have taken a wait and see over a clearly negative result. And -- positive visualizations aside -- I never allowed myself to even think I might have actually have a clearly positive result. I hoped. But I tried not to go there. I tried not to set myself up for disappointment.
They took CT scans of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis, and also checked my CA-125 cancer marker. The official results were that there was "no CT evidence of residual or recurrent disease." And my CA-125 level had finally dropped into the teens.
I couldn't have asked for better. Good ol' NED is in the house.
After the results were in, my dear friend Jill texted me, "Moo (my daughter) has a mom." This really hit home for me.
Our Maggie Moo has a mom.
I realized that over the past seven months I had been trying so hard to shut down my brain any time it started to go in the direction of "what if I'm not there" that I wasn't allowing myself to picture a future with me in it at all. I wasn't allowing myself to picture being at Maggie's kindergarten graduation. I wasn't allowing myself to think of growing older with my husband.
I had willfully been staying mentally stuck in the present, not allowing myself to think beyond the next few weeks, be it something good or bad. I had not allowed myself to think of my marriage or motherhood in the long term.
Now? I feel like I just got out of prison after thinking I had a life sentence.
I know I'm not totally scot-free. My oncologist said that I have a 50 percent chance of the cancer returning. And I will be checked every 90 days for the next two years and then every six months after that.
I think in some ways, cancer will always be a part of me. Certainly the specter of recurrence will likely be there with me, no matter how much distance I put between me and this bout with the disease.
My primary hope (after the hope of no recurrence) is that I will never again become complacent. That I'll continue taking care of myself, even more and more so. And that I'll continue to appreciate every single day as the gift that it is, even more and more so.
I have been given a second chance, and I don't intend to waste it.
Image via Mark Montgomery