I apparently was not at my best yesterday morning when I arrived at Kaiser for my appointment with Dr. Verma, the oncologist.
“You look terrible,” his receptionist told me as she recorded my weight and blood pressure.
It was a blunt but undoubtedly accurate assessment of my condition inside and out. I'd only slept an hour, having spent the night watching a collage of forgettable television as sleep refused to take root.
Dr. Verma was more tactful. “Are you okay? You look so serious."
He wanted to know if I had celebrated the CAT scan results from last week that officially showed I no longer have cancer. I said I had not. It never occurred to me to celebrate.
When Dr. Verma asked why not, I said, “I'm scared.”
He pulled up the CAT scan from last week and compared it with the one I had Friday, Jan. 13. A white mass is plainly visible in the January scan. It’s no longer there in the latest scan. Having been poisoned, raygunned and prayed over by plenty of folks I don't even know, a growing and deadly tumor has turned into a wondrously useless bit of scar tissue.
“Life is too ephemeral,” Verma said. “If you can find a reason to celebrate, you should.”
He had a point, but I'm not ready. I'm not sure when that time will come. Maybe in a couple of years, but not now. Nurse Robin’s words still haunt me.
“The problem is, it always comes back.”
We know it doesn't always come back. The odds were not in my favor, but I’m the outlier, dammit.
Dr. Verma said my chances of survival increase mightily if I remain cancer free during the next year and a half. After three years, I'm almost home free. Five years? It’s likely I’ll die of something other than lung cancer.
Like a child seeking approval, I asked a question for which I already knew the answer. I needed to hear it anyway.
“Not everyone responds this well to treatment?” I asked. Dr. Verma assured me they do not.
Maybe in three years I'll celebrate. For now, the plan is to live well as I can. I’m hoping the fear will dissipate in the weeks and months to come and normal will indeed become just that, normal.