Well hello there! Long time no write (we know).
“How have you been?” You ask.
Consider this space a long, awkward pause.
That is a fair and good question that has a complicated and confusing answer.
The succinct answer is that we’re processing a lot. We’ve had trouble putting into words the heaviness that we’ve been feeling over the last few months, but we have committed to sharing honestly about this journey, so here are our feeble attempts.
The truth is, in our own ways, we have both felt like like we spent the last year being tossed around in an angry and unpredictable cancer ocean, getting caught at times in undertows, being overcome by large swells, and nearly drowning on a few occasions. By September, we both finally felt like we had been pulled out from the gale. These days, we feel like we’re still coughing up water on the shore, fighting the shock and adrenaline that breed after near-death experiences.
While we were actively fighting the cancer ocean, all of our energy went to survival. Adam survived the chemo and I survived caretaking. Adam survived the surgeries and I survived recovery. And now that we have made it to shore (for a reprieve, at least), we are looking back at the ocean and shaking violently. Now that all of our emotional energies aren’t focused on survival, they are catching up with feeling. The ocean was awful and terrifying and traumatic. Tears aren’t uncommon for either of us these days; we have a lot to process.
We’re not just processing the past 13 months; we’re also processing the present state of Adam’s altered body and his constant discomfort. And we’re processing the future. We’re processing the long-term future of life-long scans and appointments and consequences of treatments and the short-term future. Adam still has a patch of small benign tumors on his right lung that the doctors are monitoring.
This week, Adam had routine scans and blood work. The good news is that the tumors haven’t grown and that there are no new tumors. The bad news is that we still don’t have a tumor exit plan. His oncologist doesn’t feel that the risks of leaving these small spots outweigh the risk of putting Adam under the knife for a 7th time in a calendar year. The tumors may remain benign, never grow, and never give Adam another moment of grief, or they could do just the opposite. The doc feels like we should wait and see. He said we might remove them next year, or in 5 years, or he might never remove them. So we stay in the gray.
And the gray makes us feel like we’ve been pushed back into the angry, stormy ocean, but only up to our ankles. It feels like we neither get to distance ourselves from the ocean, nor the opportunity to conquer the storm once and for all. Cancer makes you wish for weird things (like another surgery). We really wanted to hear the words “tumor free”. But instead we are working on re-adjusting our expectations. And so we stand begrudgingly in the churning, foamy surf.
But we ARE standing. And we are still wildly hopeful, as are the doctors. And Adam is getting so much stronger. He looks like himself again, his energy and spirits are up, and thanks to months of regular physical therapy, he can almost do a full situp (this isn’t a joke – when your abs get cut down the middle, situps are a lofty goal). All of Adam’s medical team has been astounded this month at how improved he is. Adam even gets to have his port removed next month – a sign that his medical team feels his risk of needing chemo again are very low (can we get an amen?)!
And so as of this week, we have entered a new phase of this journey. We are now into the monitoring phase. Adam will get scans and blood work quarterly. Adam has been given the green light to move forward with life - which feels like equal parts relief and overwhelm.
We are in uncharted waters. We’ve only survived the deep of the cancer ocean, we haven’t lingered in the shallows of “monitor and watch”. We are so so glad that we don’t have to walk the shore alone. We’re grateful for our people who have weathered this storm with us – who have sacrificed and suffered alongside us. Please keep trekking with us in this new phase.
And be patient with our ever-changing emotions. Even when prognoses are good and healing is happening and miracles are evident, cancer still messes with you. There are a good number of days when laughter is abundant and tears are at bay. But there are other days when we’re still raw, shocked, and oh-so-tired. We’re still coughing up some water from the cancer ocean.
A and A