Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What if a cure really happens?

This is something I've been thinking about recently.  I've read some other posts on the web about how difficult it can be for people who are cured of cancer to return to a "normal" life.

When I had prostate cancer, I fully expected that I could be cured.  I am still monitored on a regular basis and I will be for years to come.  But, my expectation was that a cure or at least a "permanent remission" was possible.  It is common for providers to avoid the word "cure" for prostate cancer for at least five years.

Because liposarcoma recurs so frequently, the word cure is rarely used.  Durable remission is the goal.

I remember being truly depressed in the months after my prostate surgery.  From a simple blood test that was a little bit high, to a biopsy, to diagnosis, to surgery, there was a whirlwind of activity.  Lots of self education.  But, when it was all over, I finally had a chance to catch my breath.  To start to heal mentally from what I'd just been through.  I fell into a serious funk in my post-op recovery period.  And 2+ years later, those scars remain.

Now, I'm dealing with something much more serious.  My prostate cancer was Stage 2.  This time, it's Stage 4.  In some ways, it's a technicality between Stage 3 and Stage 4.  The recurrence was somewhat "local" to the original tumor, which would normally be Stage 3.  But, it involves two major organs - my colon and a small portion of my liver.  So, the doctor has said that even though the metastases are technically local to the original tumor, she considers this to be a Stage 4 cancer.  Scary shit, indeed.

I was sick all last summer, with little explanation.  Then, a visit to the ER gave me a reason, and led to a major surgery.  The surgery led to the diagnosis.  I remember the urologist telling me that I was clear of cancer at that point in time.  But, as I read the pathology report, I didn't believe him.  Sure, the tumor was gone.  But, with some positive margins, it was clear that some cancer cells were left behind.  And, just 2 months later, a CT scan confirmed a recurrence.  On the day I found out about the recurrence, we (my wife, my oncologist and me) decided on chemo followed by surgery and maybe radiation for treatment.  This was on a Friday.  By Tuesday, I was having more scans, having a chemo port installed, and doing lab work.  The next day, chemo started.

Chemo has dominated my life for months.  Now that chemo is over, my impending surgery is all I can think about.  How will it go?  How will my recovery go?  How long will I be in the hospital?  How bad will the pain be, when I already have continuous pain from my previous surgery?

On top of all of that, I'm already thinking ahead to my first post-surgical CT scan.  Will the cancer come back as quickly as before?  Will it be clear?  If clear, how long will I be clear?  What if it never comes back?

Obviously, I don't want the cancer to come back. A friend hit the 3 year mark today being cancer free.  He had a less serious diagnosis than I did, and I'm really happy for him.  He is as positive and happy and kind as anyone I know.  He has no room in his life for negative thinking or negative people.  He still has anxiety around his scans, but he's living his life and savoring every moment.

I think I'm trying to do that as well.  I'm still teaching skiing and having fun with it.  I'm in the gym.  Cooking dinner most nights.  Trying to live life the way it was before cancer.  But, at the same time, I know life will never really be the same.  I wonder at times if I'm doing what I would normally be doing simply as a way to forget about this for brief periods of time.

So many people have told me that I'm "inspiring" or something like that.  I don't see it that way at all.  I'm trying to do what I always do.  I'm lucky that I can do that.  But, inside, I'm still scared out of my mind.  What if it comes back?  What if it comes back immediately?  And then, what if it doesn't come back?  Will I fall back into some level of depression if I don't have the beast to fight any more?

Life will simply never be the same again, no matter how all of this goes.  And that scares me, to be honest.


Harriet said...

Thanks for posting your heartfelt thoughts Damon. I always read them carefully. I am thinking of you.

WxBoy said...

You may not view yourself as inspiring, and I can understand that. But it seems to me that you are underestimating the value of being an inspiration to others. Many people have trouble just trying to do they always do in the face of a lot less scary situations than you. If your story can inspire them to do what they always do, it is a wonderful thing. Just my two cents.