Living with cancer

December 7, 2020. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night with monkey brain. All sorts of random thoughts chatter like crazy in my mental jungle. One disjointed thought leads to another. Before you know it, one or two hours go by before the monkeys quiet down, and I settle back into the world of dreams. Whenever the chattering starts, the topic that is always top of mind is cancer.

I will lie there wondering if I will have a clean PET scan when I have my next check up in February. Will the CT scans be unremarkable? When Dr. Rugo examines me, will she find a suspicious lump? What is that random pain in my arm, back, leg, foot, earlobe? Could it be??? No. It’s nothing. Shut up. Go back to sleep. Stupid monkeys.

Last night I woke up at 3 a.m. The monkeys were chattering away. As usual, I started thinking about the last two years with all its ups and downs, and I heard myself thinking, “that’s what it’s like to live with cancer.” But then I thought, “Wait a minute. I’m not living with cancer. I’m living in spite of cancer.”

To me all of us who are trying to survive this disease are “living in spite of cancer.” We don’t live with cancer willingly like a spouse, partner, roommate or pet. Cancer is not a welcome housemate. As a matter of fact, most of us do whatever we can to get cancer to move out. But sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, cancer keeps hanging around. But, trust me, I am not living with cancer.

Last dose of Xeloda
Last dose of Xeloda. Trippy.

So this is week three of being off oral chemo. It’s weird not to be in that routine. During my treatment, I created a calendar for each of the nine months, and put them on the fridge. Each day listed my morning dose and evening dose with boxes I would check off daily. On my off weeks, there was a check box next to the word “off.” It was helpful to see my progress over time.

After my last dose of Xeloda, I pulled November off and only the bare fridge remained. I thought to myself…a glass of champagne would be perfect right now. Horns should be blaring. Shouts of “right on” should be echoing around the world. That didn’t happen, but what a joy to know the refrigerator was back to just being a place to put perishable food and keep the champagne cold.

Now I wonder how long it will be before cancer isn’t a reference point for any time-related topic that comes up either in the course of conversation or just in my monkey brain.

I’m wishing you all safe, happy, healthy, enjoyable, magical holidays. And as for 2021, may it be spectacular!

This is the real work. Every day, getting up, loving the world again. –Flying Edna