“Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years.” So says the song from Fiddler on the Roof, but it is not necessarily the case when you have cancer and are waiting from one bimonthly scan to the next to see if you will be allowed to continue in the experimental drug trial. It is impossible to switch off the lingering anxiety even if all previous scans have been encouraging.
Last week saw another one of these encounters as Kate was accompanied to the Winship Cancer Center in Atlanta by her parents. At first, the news from the doctor who had reviewed the images seemed rather disheartening: one tumour had grown and the other worrisome one had shrunken only minutely. There was also a spot on the lung which, we were told, might be nothing; they would check in another few months. Tears were shed; reassurances were made by the doctor. This was viewed medically as stability and stability was good. Nonetheless, as Kate trooped off to spend hours getting her chemo infused, no one was smiling.
Flash forward a bit. Kate has sent the results home to husband Toban who has got out his figures and charts from previous scans and discovered that someone had miscalculated and the shrinkage we thought was tiny was, in fact, pretty impressive. Now everyone, including the splendid nurses, were smiling.
So for the next two months Kate will continue working up a storm, conducting interviews, going to women’s conferences, and consorting with her Young Scholar colleagues. Helpful parents will take turns being on hand to assist Toban and tractor-obsessed Zachary. And then there will be another scan.