April 2, 2009: After arriving home from my Mom’s memorial service in Portland, I went into a weird tailspin that centered on anxiety about my tumor. Basically, I felt like it was growing and that I no longer knew what to do to stop the growth. I had tried drastic amounts of chemo. I had veered to another extreme and lived on wheatgrass juice and raw vegan food to detoxify my body and help it heal. Yet I still experienced a daily fatigue that required a late afternoon nap. Then, from places in my mind that I hadn’t heard from yet, I realized that I could die from this tumor. It was as if I had not had that thought before, and it took over on Tuesday. I had waves of psychic shock focusing on “Das Ende.” The End. Had I finished my legal paper work? What to do with rugs and glass and furniture? No need to buy any new shirts for this summer; my task would be to get rid of my clothes. The End. No more event. Cancel subscriptions, etc.
While getting overwhelmed I realized that within a day’s time, I would talk with Dr. Jahan about the results of my scans from the previous week. That would do it, for sure. Then I’d really get the bad news. Plus, I hadn’t seen Dr. Jahan for two months, and I became convinced that he’d start taking my inventory about how I had walked away from treatment, etc. Well, I thought, I’ll just hide behind the fact that my Mom just died. No doctor can stand up against that. So, having put together my strategy of how I’d handle Dr. Jahan, I resumed having my dismal thoughts of dying soon. The culmination occurred over dinner with my friend Bob Currier where I said that I didn’t know how to combat my tumor. Given this lack of ability, I would die. Tears ran down my face. Dinner arrived. Bob listened carefully and reminded me that I was more than my tumor. Also, he reminded me that having a meditation practice was not inconsequential. Still, I felt like I had finally understood something simple and inevitable and dreadful: I would die soon enough.
I arrived at clinic and visited with Eileen prior to seeing Dr. Jahan. I summarized my feelings about the strength of the tumor’s grown and my own relative weakness. Eileen counseled patience and a day at a time. And then, we were in the clinic room and Dr. Jahan was coming through the door. He seemed happy and friendly like he wasn’t going to start out with an admonishment to start chemo right away. And, in fact, he did no such thing. Rather, he started by saying, “Your scan results are just amazing. I can’t believe it. There has been no tumor growth over the past two months. None. I am so surprised. I looked at the results really carefully. You must be doing something right.”
I was totally stunned, but managed to say, “I know nothing. That’s the last thing I expected to hear you say. It’s been feeling to me like that tumor has increased in size, especially toward the back of my groin.”
“Well, it hasn’t grown at all. Not a bit. Really, it’s quite extraordinary. In fact, I’d say you get a breather for a while. I don’t have anything to prescribe at this point. No reason to do chemo if your body is holding firm and the tumor isn’t growing. So I’m thinking that you should have more scans in three months.”
“Three months!” I gasped.
“Sure. I don’t want to wait too long. And if anything changes for the worse, more pain, any bleeding, let us know right away. In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing.”
So that’s what happened to me as my scans were read on Wednesday. The tumor is not getting larger (nor has it gotten smaller). I do not have to wrap up my life in the next six months. Rather, I'll have time to live more with the cancer and do what I can to diminish it’s size as well as shrink it’s hold over my life. What a surprise.
For the first day, I didn’t really believe the good news. It wasn’t until I started telling people and saw their looks of astonishment and happiness that I began to understand that this was happening. Now, a day and a half later, it feels more real. I’ve had time to get used to the idea of living longer. I’ve started to imagine how I want to celebrate. What a week.