A Leap Of Faith
I had a follow up-follow up appointment with my radiation oncologist on Tuesday morning to get the results of my CT scan from the week before, because he wanted to adjust my steroids if there was no bleeding in the brain.
His nurse was even friendlier than usual towards me when I got there, which, having been here in this place of scanxiety before, made me wonder if they had bad news for me.
The doctor came in seeming very excited and chipper and asked how I was feeling. I told him about the rib pain I'm having - probably from coughing (cold came back), and all the vomiting from before didn't help I'm sure. He decided to send me for a bone scan just to make sure there's nothing nasty lurking.
Then he wheeled his stool over next to Jim and said, "I have the scan results from last week", he opened my file to the page and started showing Jim the results. I was a bit numb, because that's how mel gets you, you condition yourself to expect the worst. What the doctor was saying wasn't really sinking in with me even though I could hear the words.
Here it is:
As of November 1st 2006, I was told that I had three lesions in my brain, a 3.3cm, a 2.9cm and a 1.8cm, as well as vastly disseminate seeding of tiny lesions throughout my brain too small to measure.
That's when they gave me the three month prognosis.
As of the scan I had last week, the 3.3cm lesion has shrunk to 1.6cm, the 2.9cm one to 1.2cm and the 1.8cm one has shrunk down to being so small they can't measure it. Most of the seeding of tiny lesions throughout my brain is no longer visible.
So those 22 days of WBR and further 8 days of reduced field therapy really paid off, even though it was hard at the time. While you're taking these treatments, it's a real leap of faith, if you like. Because you feel like hell and have no idea if it's even going to work, but you do it anyway.
A leap of faith. Like when I was a child standing at the edge of the swimming pool, with my dad in the water telling me to jump in and that he'd catch me. So I jumped, as high and hard as I could, because I was a daddy's girl. And in that moment, that few seconds of freefall before my body hit the water, I experienced that same feeling of placing myself totally in someone else's hands, not really knowing if they'd be able to stop me falling, from going under.
Right at the start of this whole brain episode, I decided to put myself completely in this doctor's hands and not second-guess him, which is quite alien to my nature. But upon that first meeting with him, when I was so sick and my survival was so questionable, he was the one who gave me that hope.
Yes, he gave me a horrible prognosis. But then he started to tell me about what he thought he could do if we were aggressive enough. He told me about success stories he's had with patients in the past, he told me that he thought I had what it took to pull through this. Good strong oil and good strong water (that still makes me smile). He gave me that hope.
And I jumped. Like that skinny little redheaded girl by the pool, I jumped. And the fall was endless, and I had no idea if anyone would be there to catch me, but I held on tight anyway. I kept the faith, held onto the hope, even though the odds looked so hopeless just a couple of short months ago. The fall was infinite.
And then suddenly, this week, it was like hitting the water and feeling my dad's arms closing around me and hearing him laughing and saying, "Good girl!" And then lifting me onto his shoulders which always felt like the safest place in the world to me.
The Doctor must be used to giving this sort of news, he included me in the conversation, but addressed himself to Jim, I think he could see my numbness and I think it was probably a completely normal reaction on my part. As he was talking, he'd keep looking at me and all I could say was, "Okay... okay..." I simply didn't know what to do with the news, which is better than we could have hoped to hear so early after the therapy.
But there's more. Not content with just watching and waiting now, Dr Aggressive (as he shall now be known) is going to be performing Gamma Knife radiosurgery on the remaining two shrunken lesions (and he says, anything else he feels might need it), because melanoma is so resistent to radiation that he doesn't want to take any chances.
Me? I'm with him all the way. Jump off a cliff? Sure... be right there.
So I didn't really know what to do with myself after the appointment on Tuesday morning. I heard the news and understood it, but couldn't quite get my head around it. I don't think it really set in until that evening. I sat and looked at Jim (you should see him, this is the first time he hasn't looked exhausted and terrified since the end of October) and just smiled. Yeah. It's real. I can relax just a bit, loosen my grip, just a tad and bask in this moment of happiness for a while.
I'll be looking at my scan results next week and I know I'm not out of the woods yet, but the fact remains that had we not been able to control the brain, I'd be much, much deeper in the woods than I am right now.
Next week can take care of itself.
It's funny what family becomes when you have cancer. My dad died when I was a teenager and since my diagnosis, I think about him every day, all the time. I was pretty angry, I think, about how he died and that I never got a chance to see him one last time, to say goodbye. Now I sort of feel as though he's watching over me like a guardian angel or something. I know this is a little whimsical, but sometimes, when things are bad and it's 3am and I'm awake, but trying not to think, it's like I can feel his arms go around me, smell the scent of the soap he used, hear him chuckle as he ruffles my hair. It's just my imagination, I know, but it's so comforting. I like to think he's close by anyway.
It's my life and my cancer, I'm allowed to be a bit off the wall if I want. :)
On the other end of the spectrum, I haven't spoken to my mother since early December. I could be dead and she wouldn't know. I've given up on calling her. It was always me doing the calling, telling the updates and to be honest, the conversations were disappointing. She gives me nothing and I am past the point where I have anything for her. Speaking to her just leaves me feeling alone and resentful, I no longer wish to deal with that.
I've tried. Especially since the brain issues. Mainly because I didn't want her to see her only daughter die and regret not having had a better relationship. However it seems that she doesn't want a better relationship, so I have to let her go. She'll manage to lie to herself and convince herself that she was there for me and that I was the problem. It's how she operates. The only thing I ever learned from my mother was how NOT to be.
It hurts me so much though, that my children don't have the support of their grandmother as they travel this road with me. That part hurts more than the fact that she couldn't give a rat's arse about me.
I had a funny (not ha-ha either) conversation with my aunt a few weeks ago. She called up out of nowhere - I haven't spoken to her since I've had cancer. She wants to come and visit, but she has to wait and see when my mother can come. I told her why wait? She said that she doesn't want to interfere. Interfere in what? I told her that at the beginning of November I'd been given a three month prognosis, so she might not want to wait too long and there was no way my mother wanted to come and see me anyway.
Her response to the three month thing? "So when will that be?" Like she wanted the exact date.
I've never really known how to use the word nonplussed before that moment.
It's a good thing I have a sense of humor!
But anyway, things have been said about me back home, between these people who are supposed to love me. I tried to broach the subject a couple of times and my aunt just told me that she 'didn't want to get involved in all that'. Get involved in all what? The fact is, my mother has serious issues and has never forgiven me for taking my kids and moving to the USA.
Frankly, I'm done with the lot of them. They bring absolutely nothing to my life. I don't want them to invite themselves to my home for a mini-vacation (let's face it, they really only want to see my kids, my aunt whined on at length about how her life hasn't been the same since we left).
There's no love for me there. Sometimes you've just got to move on. And really, these people have too many issues of their own for me to really think they'd have any sort of positive effect on my kids. Best to just walk away. Once you have cancer, other losses become easier to deal with... this is what I must do.
Not sure where all that came from, I think it's just something else I wanted to write down for posterity. Now it's 'on paper' and out of my head. I have better things to worry about than those people, maybe this is me finally letting go for good, seeing it in writing makes it feel more real.
Enough. ENOUGH of the negative BS my family always brings with them.
This week... today and tomorrow on our 'anniversary'... we have so much to celebrate!!
I'm feeling pretty lucky right now, I have to tell you.
Once again, to all of you who write and otherwise support me, thank you. We're still standing, in fact this week, we're standing better than ever.