Cancer comes with its own vocabulary. We’ve already learned about clear margins, PETscans, stomas, ports, intraoperational lasers. The latest addition to the list is scanxiety – the anxiety one feels as she/he goes into one of a long series of post-diagnosis CT scans and their necessary oncologist appointments. This past week, I had my first bout with this as I headed into my own post-surgery scan and then drove up to the hospital to discuss it with my doctors. I’m happy to report that my scan came back clear with no new tumors or recurrence. I can also report that my various scars are healing well and, according to my doctors, I look great. Except for a lingering, annoying ‘plumbing’ issue which will take another few months to sort out, I have reached a new stage — that longed-for stage of being done with my cancer and its treatment. But are we really done yet?
It is six months ago to the day that I wrote my first blog about cancer. It has been a challenging six months, to say the least. But, despite the pain and fear and impatience, it hasn’t been all bad. I have been lucky in so many ways: lucky to have had the sort of tumor that could be dealt with surgically (albeit with a humongous one). I have been surrounded by friends and family who always kept up my spirits and reminded me, in my most frustrated moments, of how far along I had come on this unexpected journey. I’m lucky to have access to some of the world’s best physicians in one of the world’s best hospitals. And I’m lucky to have been able to make sense of these past six months through my writing and through the generous encouragement of you, my readers.
Six months. A long time. But honestly, we all know that I’m not done yet. For the next five years I will go through my own quarterly bouts of scanxiety. My guess is that the further away from my surgery I get, the more anxious I’ll become. My kind of cancer is a slow-growing one, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t grow. We’ll just have to wait and see. So no, we’re not done yet, but honestly, none of us are, thank goodness. As long as we walk this planet, we are not done. The world strews our paths with tumultuous challenges and surprising difficulties. But that is the nature of our lives as human beings blessed with self-awareness. None of us are done until, at last, we are. I continue to believe that for me, that moment of completion is still a long way off.
Perhaps, though, it is time for me to stop writing these essays about cancer and turn my mind back to all the other ideas and experiences that I can share, things like art, education, travel, social programs, poetry , novels, theater, philosophy. You know, all the fun stuff. And if, of course, this disease, the true plague of our modern life, comes back to teach me more lessons to be learned the hard way, I will write about cancer again. Then, as before, I will start learning, forgetting, groping my way through it all, both in action and in writing. And, as always, I will extend my hand to you, asking for help when needed, and offering my own, as desired..