Two Years Seemed So Far Off When I Was Diagnosed...
It’s almost here. That date that some cancer patients reach after their illness progresses past a certain point. The two-year cancerversary, the end of the beginning, the “OMG did I really make it two whole years since my last chemo infusion without anything happening??” moment. It’s a milestone, for sure, but when I was in the thick of things I couldn’t even fathom two years in the future.
"The moment when I knew something was really wrong..."
I still remember that first moment – not the moment they told me I had cancer but the moment when I knew something was really wrong. Some people have the moment of diagnosis burned into their brains, or the first chemo session seared into a lasting memory, but for me, it was the look on the doctor’s faces after the sixth CAT scan of my abdomen. Yes, I said sixth. For some reason the first five times I had scans the almost eight-centimeter tumor didn’t show up. I’m not sure if it was on vacation down at my bladder, or maybe it dressed up and disguised itself like my Pancreas, but whatever the case may be it wasn’t until the third week of my second hospital stay that they even uttered the word cancer. Well, if I’m being accurate, they didn’t actually use the “C” word, they called it a “shadow,” and if I’m really being honest, before they said a word I knew.
I have always had an intuition with people. Even when I was little, I could read people’s emotions and feelings better than most. Even so, it was only the years of living with rheumatoid arthritis that allowed me to detect the cancer wisps drifting in the air before nary a word was spoken. Of course, every doctor handles it differently, but they all have a certain air about them when they have to deliver serious news or bad test results. It’s not something I can describe really, it’s more like a combination of the look someone gets when solving for X in an algebra problem and the look someone gets when they have been constipated for three days and it’s only getting worse. No one enjoys delivering bad news and doctors are no different – the news is written all over their faces before they part their lips even once.
Sensing what was coming
There I was, lying in my bed in the local hospital at 2 pm on a Tuesday and two surgeons who were previously slated to operate on my “very serious ulcer,” walked in, and immediately I knew. Their faces were twisted up into a quizzical/confused/upset mishmash like they had both just sucked on Watermelon Jolly Rancher but it ended up tasting like a Sour Apple – the worst of all the flavors, as everyone knows. It was at that second that the word “cancer” just popped in my head, and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what they were going to say.
Now, I’m not a psychic nor do I claim to be (except on my 1-900 ads, where I’m known as The Mystikal Daniel PM, master of the night, 9.95 per minute except in Hawaii and Alaska), but after thirty some odd years of dealing with doctors, hospitals, and surgeons, I have developed a sixth sense because, like anything, practice makes perfect. Now I can spot a bad news carrying physician at 300 yards in the middle of a snowstorm, so I knew that I was in store for grave tidings indeed.
Would I ever be normal again?
At first, they started asking me questions like, “Did anyone ever say they saw a shadow on your scan? No? What about your family, do they have a history of lymphoma? Do you regularly ingest carcinogens?” And so on, and so on. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to be a psychic, Hell, you barely need to be alive to understand what those questions all point towards. Add that to the sudden and violent change in urgency that now permeated my airspace and it adds up to one very tightly tied-bow around the package of cancer I was about to receive, and there was no regifting this one like that book about the bridges of New York State that your aunt gave you. Thanks, aunt Marcy, this is definitely what every recent high school graduate wants.
After all was said and done that day, it wasn’t until I was in an ambulance at 1 am on my way to a Manhattan hospital oncology ward that I had time to think. Really, though, the only thing that kept popping in my head was, “it’s going to be years before my life goes back to something like normal. That’s such a long time, especially at my age…” It seemed like an eternity and if I’m being honest there were times I laid awake at 3 am, knowing I wouldn’t sleep that night, wondering if I’d ever be normal again and would it even matter if by the time I was I was elderly?
My two-year cancerversary
Long story short, or, well, long story slightly-less-long, after a three-month escapade to find out just exactly which type of uncontrolled cell growth was eating away the inside of my belly, they guessed lymphoma. I say guessed because, well, they freakin’ guessed. Fortunately, they were right, but that’s an entirely separate story full of doctors taking weekend vacations instead of testing me, uncaring hospital administrators who shoved me in rooms with 3 am phone talkers who spoke Albanian, and self-righteous pain management doctors who were younger than some of my prescriptions. So, you know, pretty much status quo for any hospital stay.
January brings my two-year cancerversary, and the first day which I am officially allowed to say I am in remission. I hate to make a big deal about it but seeing as how it’s been over two years since that fateful day where the dynamic duo told me I had a “shadow,” I thought it was appropriate to at least mark it with an article post. Two years is such a long time when you are looking at it laid before you, but when you view it in the rearview, it looks shockingly tiny. I think they call that… life? Something I am lucky to still be enjoying. Talk soon.
Have you met another blood cancer patient?