That’s a question I get asked a lot.
It’s a tricky answer.
Technically, I have been “cancer free” since my surgery on April 18th. We confirmed that with bone and body scans. There is no detectable cancer in my body.
There could, however, be microscopic traces of cancer still in my system and since it made it to my lymph nodes, there is a bigger chance. The chemo was done to try to prevent the microscopic traces (if there were any) from growing. The radiation was done for the same reason.
See it’s not like if I had a blood cancer and they were giving me chemo to kill it or put it in remission.
The doctors cut out my cancer and then blasted me in the hopes of keeping it away.
Of course their aim was to “cure” me.
My new oncologist told me that if it doesn’t come back in fifteen years, that means I was cured.
Fifteen years is a long time to wait. I will be fifty-six. In fifteen years, both of my children will be in their twenties. Fifteen years seems like an eternity. Anything can happen in fifteen years. I can’t really even contemplate fifteen years.
For now, I am ok. I hope to remain that way.
I never felt sick with the cancer. It was the treatment that made me feel unhealthy.
It is a very strange thing to wrap one’s head around.
Am I okay? Yes. I am okay.
Will I always be okay? We don’t know. Nobody knows.
It seems strange to do all that work and go through all that torture and not know if it even works. But the truth is, only time will tell.
So when people ask me, I am never quite sure how to answer. I tell them I’m ok for now. I tell them I hope to be okay forever.
When I was a kid, I read a book about a girl who had bone cancer. I remember thinking to myself, how scary. How do you live your life knowing you have cancer?
Well, now I can tell you that you just do it. You just live. And you are grateful for every day you can get out of bed and be alive. Even boring mundane stuff is fun these days. Cleaning the kitchen is even fun. Seriously. Heck, breathing is fun.
And it feels great to feel better, even when it is in baby steps.
The other day, I called my friend Heather. We’ve been friends for over twenty years. The last time I talked to her was right after I had finished chemo and I did not have much to say. The call was quite brief. This time, I talked and talked. It made me realize how much progress I have made in my recovery. I don’t take it for granted for one second.
Am I okay now?
Yes. Today I am okay.
The actress Lynn Redgrave had her first battle with breast cancer in the early 2000′s. After her treatment, she apparently stated that she would not die of breast cancer. And then, several years later, she did indeed die of breast cancer. It came back. And the weird thing is, if you do a search, you will see that there are breast cancer survivors who were mad at her. Mad that she would be so bold to say that she was cured and then have the audacity to die.
She was trying to be optimistic. She was trying to take control of her disease. She was hoping she was cured. And people got mad at her for dying?
All I can say is that the internet is full of jerks.
I do not find myself as bright eyed as Ms. Redgrave. My brain is wired to be more realistic.
The truth is that this disease could eventually kill me. That is a big possibility.
But it isn’t going to do it today…or even tomorrow.
Today, I am okay, and that is all I’ve got.