Over the past four years since being diagnosed with mets, six with cancer, I have had approximately ten PET scans, about 50 CT scans, 24 MUGA scans and a sprinkling of bone and other types of imaging tests.
Imagine the time that takes - the driving, the parking, the waiting rooms, changing, prep, lying in machine after machine. Hundreds of hours I've spent - no, thousands - not only waiting for tests, but waiting for doctors and waiting for treatment. I have likely had 500 doctor appointments over the past years - often going several times a week. My life is thoroughly medicalized and has been since my initial diagnosis.
Lying in these machines, waiting for them to probe through my skin and reveal the secrets lying beneath - to learn whether cancer is growing or retreating, whether I have time to live or it is time to prepare for death - I think. I think about what it means to have this disease take away your life piece by piece, health, job, functioning..but also what it means to be one of the lucky ones who enters remission and gets a reprieve from cancer and gets some of that back.
And then, have it taken away again.
Which is what just happened. My remission is over and I have active cancer again.
I think about how small we are in the grand scheme of things, and what makes us cling to life so desperately - and we all do, we all want life so much.
What I have mostly thought about is my family. I think about my loved ones. I submit my body to needles and chemicals and radiation and scalpels, for them, to see as much of their lives as I'm privileged to see.
In history, we are nobody. Only a few of us will have names that live past our immediate families: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Barack Obama. The rest of us, we'll be forgotten in the dust of time. And that's okay. Millions of people have come before us, each as individual as you or I. Each has had their life, their suffering, their joy, and their deaths and each is now gone. Billions of people, known only for 3 generations if they are lucky.
All we can do is try to do a little good while we are here; nudge the world in a way that we think it should be nudged. That can be done by something as simple as raising a decent human being. You never know if that person will truly change the word, be a President or Inventor, or will give birth to one. Not all humans must be great. Ultimately, what gives most of us happiness, what gives us the ability to continue on in the face of adversity, what gives us purpose, is being with the ones we love. Why is that so important? I don't know why, I only know it's the biggest part of humanity. So this time, as I sat in a darkened room with radioactive sugars dripping into my system, preparing for the test that will tell my fortune, as always, I think of my family.
My fortune was not difficult to tell. In cancer, the crystal ball is not opaque. What happened to me is what happens to all women with metastatic breast cancer. Cancer grows.
All we want as we are scanned and treated is to live long enough for the next milestone: to see a birthday, a graduation, wedding, or a grandchild. Our lives are like fireflies in an endless sky, blinking out quickly. But we have value while we are here. Without us, the person who may change the world would not come about.
We are worth money, and research dollars, and hope.
My cancer regrowth is in a difficult place - abdominal lymph nodes and portal hepatis. Lots of important veins and structures there. I'll have a radiological interventionist consult to see if it can be biopsied. If not, then I will go on Xeloda, and stay on Perjeta and Herceptin. And cross my fingers that I am allowed another little miracle. The miracle of time. There are more milestones to reach.