January 22, 2008 Time is on Our Side

Family and Friends,

It has now been 18 months since I was diagnosed with lung cancer, 15 months since my surgery to remove one lobe of my lung, and 13 months since I finished chemotherapy. For the past two and a half months Genevieve and I have been extremely confident that the next CT scan would be negative. In fact, in a weird way I was LOOKING FORWARD to this scan, as proof that we are that much further away from cancer. Of course, that changed over the last two weeks, as the tension mounted for both of us. Our brains are calculating the odds and telling us to be confident, while our hearts are beating out of our chests, waiting for the "verdict". I wanted to SCREAM while we were waiting for the oncologist to come into the room. WHAT DOES IT MEAN that he needs a few more minutes to review the scan? Was there some doubt about the results? Maybe he's on the phone talking with the radiologist... Maybe he's consulting with somebody else...

While you are waiting for the news, it is easy to start interpreting every potential clue. You start watching to see if the staff is making eye contact, or being toooooo nice. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the meeting, every potential hiccup becomes a potential harbinger of doom. I had a cold/flu bug for the past two and a half weeks, and for three days in a row I had terrible headaches. Wait a minute... Didn't they say that the first place lung cancer usually migrates is to the BRAIN? Maybe it's a sign of brain cancer. Why should I have a cold for two and a half weeks? Do I have a weak immune system, which means I could get the cancer back if I even BLINK wrong? Okay, I heard other people had the same bug, and they were even sicker than me, so maybe not.

The common element to these irrational, emotionally charged fears is vulnerability. Even though the oncologist told us that the risk of cancer drops dramatically every three months for the first two years, then drops off more slowly after that, every visit FEELS like a 50/50, yes/no, live/die possibility. Not intellectually realistic, but emotionally it is the absolute truth.

We met with the oncologist today. There are no signs of cancer on my latest CT scan. We live to worry another day.

And so it goes.