When Toban came to find me in the cancer center waiting room, we both knew that was probably one of the most important days of our lives. So he immediately started to laugh when he got close enough to realize what I was doing in the meantime. I was on the phone with CNN explaining the prosperity theology of Donald Trump.
My pager buzzed and the nurse called my name.
“Oh, shoot, can I call you back?” I told the reporter. “I have to go find out if I’m going to live this year.”
We were so nervous that we both felt a little ill. There is a lot of nothing in hospitals, a lot of the buzz of florescent lights and listening for the scraping sound of my chart being taken out of the holder on the door. So we did what we could do. We prayed. He held my sweaty hands. And he complied with my request to play the song “All I Do is Win” on repeat because hyper-confidence in the midst of desperation makes me laugh.
The doctor came in as I was singing the chorus “All I do is win, win, win no matter what!” at a volume not entirely appropriate for a health care setting. But when I saw the smile on his face, I allowed myself to finish up the chorus and a verse.
It was good. It was better than good. It was magnificent.
After having stopped chemo, there were no signs of new tumor growth. Which means that the chemotherapy wasn’t doing anything but hurt me. And that the immunotherapy is working, working, working. As far as the studies can show, the tumors won’t grow. At least not this year, which is as far as the studies go.
It is so good that my brain can hardly process the implications. I will continue to get regular scans, but it is officially completely reasonable for me to be confident. And relaxed. And happy. I will trade old problems for better problems. Instead of trying to gauge whether these tumors will grow, we will be discussing whether we should be surgically removing them or only keeping an eye on them. We will talk about how, someday, I will drop immunotherapy all together when it seems like my body knows how to effectively target those foreign cancer cells. We will hold our breath and wait for the next big advancement in cancer research while I stay what I am—incurable. But I can live with incurable. As long as I get to live.
In truth, it is so good that it was hard to sit down and write this blog entry. I was absolutely swamped the last few days with an out-of-town conference and a surprise (but wonderfully welcome) family visit. I thanked God like a wild woman but it has not yet occurred to me that I can relax for a minute and acknowledge that, for now and the near future, I am fine. I’ve been so accustomed to creating the momentum I need to endure these highs and lows that I hardly know how to sloooooow down.
This fact was obvious from the moment I emerged from the doctor’s office on Wednesday with The News. At the moment I should have been weeping for joy, I finished my appointment, walked out of the cancer center, and dialed the first number that came to mind.
“Hi! Yes. I’m back. I get to live this year! I should call my parents. But first, quickly, let’s finish talking about Donald Trump.”