2013 didn’t tick by in weeks and months, it passed in a series of three-month chunks, each punctuated by his quarterly visits to his oncologist.
On the one hand, each set of follow-up scans after his testicular cancer diagnosis at the tail-end of 2012 has been a little bit easier, for both of us. He knows what to expect, and I’m learning to — trying to — control my accompanying scanxiety. On the other hand, he’s now familiar with drinking contrast and having needles in both arms, and I’m saying things like “quarterly visits to his oncologist”…
I made myself a little cancer countdown out of Post-It notes to keep track of his visits, because peeling each one off makes me feel like I have some sort of say in this to-do list, which I decidedly do not. “One down, 13 to go,” I proclaimed. Then, “Two down, 12 to go.” Now, he’s been healthy through three sets of scans and appointments. In a few days, I’ll tear off this “11” and we’ll have just 10 more cycles of this worry and wait and rejoice and wait and worry.
And he’ll officially be one year cancer-free.
It’s a statement so foreign I find it’s often stuck as a lump in my throat, and yet it’s a fact so beautiful, a fact I am so grateful for, that there’s nothing to do but celebrate.
And celebrate we will, but fear will be a guest at the party, judging me from the corner for daring to shout about the joy in this moment, when it’s but a respite in many more trying moments to come throughout this unfinished journey.
I didn’t invite fear, but I’m learning to accept it. “It’s a healthy fear,” Woody Roseland wrote about anticipating his own next scan in an October blog. “It’s like the fear you should have for a loaded weapon.”
I learned that pretending I wasn’t afraid didn’t get me anywhere. I bottled up my fear until one night it all came (embarrassingly and misguidedly) rocketing out. I tried hiding my nerves around two of the scans and ended up sick with colds. It’s a fear that’s probably not going anywhere. I have to learn how to live with it instead of fight against it.
“Unlike a romantic love interest, cancer doesn’t let you break up with it and move on. Cancer always sticks around,” Elise Frame wrote in a November blog. “Maybe it won’t show up physically on the lab reports or scans, but it’s always there, in my hopes, my fears, my uncertain future. Cancer is the ultimate question mark on my life, and I wish I could be certain of a good answer. But I have no answers for the future. I only have answers for right now.”
This cancer-free year has to be — no, is — enough for now.