Monthly Archives: September 2016

The things you can’t explain

I’ve just come from the doctors office where my blood test results have broken triple digits (they’re in the low 100s). To put it in perspective, normal is 5 for one of the markers and 30 for the other. I should be feeling like I want to crawl out of my own skin. I don’t.

I keep asking myself  Why? What am I doing in this moment that is keeping me calm? Keeping me from walking out on the ledge? I don’t have an answer. If I did, I’d bottle it. Keep it in a safe place for the next time. Share it with those around me who need it.

Part of it, I suppose, is expectation. I’d already thrown this game in my mind. These numbers don’t matter. It’s the next set that should.  Yet even those I’m not anxious about. There’s something – or someone – deep inside me that’s decided numbers don’t matter. That I’m not going to play the numbers game.

I’ve decided instead, to ask myself How do I feel? (Awesome!) Do I have any pain? (Not anything I can’t explain) Any indication this cancer has gotten ahead of me? (No!) Any indication that the good guys are losing the battle? (Not at all).

Yes, I know there are terrorists inside my body, just like there are terrorists in this world, in the state I live in, judging by the news I watch. And yes, they are a threat. Wrong place, wrong time, I could take on collateral damage. Could be game over.

The best I can do is be vigilant. About what goes into my body, what goes on my body, what goes into my head, my mind.  I can’t say what it is that I’m doing today that I don’t always do.  I really don’t know what is keeping me resolute.

I am heading for a conference in two days about clinical trials and new immunotherapy drugs that use the body’s own immune system to fight these rogue cells. It won’t offer answers, but it will offer a direction, one that I’ve chosen to take. A direction that’s unknown, that’s fraught with uncertainty. But where I am has no answers either. So I’d rather forge a new path than tread a worn one that only keeps me where I am.

As a wise woman once told me “When there are no answers, there are choices. And your choices will change, just as you will be changed by them.” Somehow, that advice is less frightening at the moment than the idea of staying stuck on the corner of No Answers and What If.  I’ve made my choice. What If, here I come.


Fourth and goal and in need of a win

cancer goalsIt’s early September, the beginning of the final quarter of the year, and I’m looking at where I am in accomplishing my goals.

This year’s goals were pretty much the same as last year’s: Finish my novel. Finish renovations on our 1860s home.  Complete a few side projects like faux graining a cabinet or putting a quilt applique on some threadbare bedding. I admit, I know nothing about the last two, which means there’s a learning curve involved that’s slowing me down. Truth is, there’s a learning curve to all of this.

My inbox is filled with advice, templates to download, steps to take to move me forward. Everyday I take time to read those emails or fill out the forms, put a plan together. For a week or two I even put the time into acquiring the habits I need – whether it’s blogging or spending a half hour writing 500 words in my novel or making dinner at home every night for a week with fresh vegetables from my garden. Then I’m all high-fiving myself over finally getting through the mire and moving on with my life.

Until…I get to my monthly oncologist’s appointment. And then, my life gets derailed. January was “Let’s look under the hood.” February was scans, March results, April why don’t we try something new, May was getting health insurance approval, June dawned a day of promise as my number shot down, pain shot up with the new drug. July was managing side effects and trying a lower dosage, August was the reality that July’s strategy didn’t work so we’re back up to a higher dosage and looking for new alternatives, like clinical trials.  And here I am in September wondering where the year went and why I haven’t accomplished anything.

To be fair, I have accomplished some things. I did run a half-marathon with neighbors who became better friends in April. I did a triathlon in June and several 5K runs with a new group of friends.

Another good friend reminds me that I’ve continued to work on my novel, interviewed several famous people for stories I got paid to write, kept up with friends, have launched a campaign to run for borough council, researched cancer treatments and signed up for a conference to educate myself about clinical trials. I’ve mentored kids who live on my street. Volunteered to help judge a baking contest so I could write about it in my novel. I’m taking an online college course on doping, as the issue is a prominent theme in my book.

Still, I have a pile of magazines beside my bed that I can’t seem to get to read. And while I’ve had a lot of great lunches with friends who have helped me craft a plan or make a connection to move me closer to my goals, I still don’t feel like I’m making any progress.

So as I sit down to figure out how I’m going to accomplish in the remaining three months of the year what I couldn’t seem to do in the past nine months, I also ask myself how do I live alongside this disease and stop it from running my life as I’ve let it? How do I send it to the corner for a timeout so peace can reign in my classroom for the remainder of this period? And when will I be done with this lesson so I can move on?


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