I thought I'd share a little more about how things are going, since my last update was just a quick note to get the word out about my clear scan and bloodwork.
When I got the news last Friday, I had just left a counseling appointment at the cancer center, and pulled up at a parking meter to run a quick errand in the Central West End. My phone rang and I saw that it was my oncologist's main nurse line. This was it. I answered; the reply came, slow and deliberate.
"Sara, this is Deb."
"Are you ready for this?"
"I don't know if I'm ready for this," my voice was a kind of whine.
"You are," Deb said, and I could hear her smiling. "It says, 'Tell her the scan is perfect and the CA-125 is within normal range too' exclamation mark, exclamation mark!"
This is where my exact memory of the conversation fails. I know Deb said that we still need to be vigilant but this was good news, and that she saw the results and knew she couldn't make me wait through the weekend to hear. She said something about it being a great Halloween treat and that I should go and have a wonderful weekend.
I sat at the meter for a good twenty minutes, making phone calls and sending texts before I got back into somewhat-normal mode and finished my errand. I was very close to Bissinger's (chocolate shop) and decided I deserved a decaf mocha. (I guess some people celebrate with champagne; chocolate and whipped cream for me.) As the super-nice guy was making my drink, he started chatting, asked me how Halloween was treating me. I smiled dazedly and said, "This is a really good day." When he looked up, I blurted, "I've been having chemo for the last five months and I just found out my scan is clear, like half an hour ago." He said how great that was and congratulations, and murmured something I couldn't quite hear to a coworker. When he handed me my drink, he said, "Thanks for sticking around a while!" (He didn't mean in the store.) I'm not the type to hug a stranger, but it almost happened. Then he asked me to wait a minute and the coworker he'd spoken to earlier passed me a pound of assorted chocolates. As I walked out, I heard the barista say to his friends, "She just got through chemo and..."
Between the mocha and the news, I felt giddy for a little while. I came home and paced my kitchen, rubbing a hand back and forth over my mostly hairless head. God, how much I wanted to call my mom. I wanted to tell her so bad - the scan is clear, mom! She's been gone almost six years now, but it doesn't seem to matter much; when something big happens, she is still the person to tell. The only other thing I could think to do was get down on my knees and say thank you. That's what I was doing, just kneeling on the floor saying thank you over and over, when my Auntie Meg (one of my mom's two beloved sisters) called and, though I'd talked to her while I was at that parking meter, I paced the kitchen and gave her the blow-by-blow again. And then again.
I'd already made plans to have dinner at the home of some friends who live in the neighborhood. It was a lovely time and delicious home-cooked food and when I got home later, I was exhausted. Back on the phone with my Aunt that night, I made my way to stunned, then rapidly, to overwhelmed and sobbing. She stayed on the phone with me - as she has done many nights since all of this started - until I was ready to fall asleep.
You know the feeling you get during finals week, where you know you just have to get through and *then* you can crash? The adrenaline and the need to perform, to do what needs to be done, pushes you through. This was a major crash. It really did feel like there had been something pushing me to keep going and going through the treatments and the anxiety and all of it. My cousin Alexis explained it like this: there's been a bear chasing me for months; now that I can stop running, it makes sense I would crash hard. Saturday and Sunday, I could barely get out of bed and when I did, I thought maybe I shouldn't have. Monday, I worked my regular hours at home, but that is all I did.
First thing Tuesday morning, Shawnessey met me for my doctor appointment. We heard again that the tests were clear. The doctor talked about the toll the chemo has taken on my body, how I can expect to continue to feel quite fatigued for a while, explained that the shortness of breath I've been having is from chemo-induced anemia. He went on to say that this is when the mental recovery begins, that I need to take things slow, and that dealing with the emotional repercussions of everything that has happened since the diagnosis is a big and important task. His main advice was to be careful with myself and to take things as slowly as I can. He smiled and said, "You don't have to see me again for three months!" (At that point, I'll have bloodwork and an exam - no scan yet, unless there seems to be a reason for it.) Before I left, I got hugs from both the doctor and from Deb, the nurse who'd called with my results on Friday.
So, here I am, reeling. I just got off the phone with my brother, Jason, and, after I went through all of this and my concerns and the pressures and the what-will-happen-nexts, he said something like, "Well, the storm has passed now and the water is calm. It may still be foggy, but the water is calm." A wise fella.
When I'm anxious, I like to go for walks, but through most of this, I haven't had the strength to really do that in the way I want to - alone and for as long as I like. I'm still not up to a lot, but today when I woke up with a belly full of worry, I bundled up and went outside. I know that I've gotten to the important point of the walk when I stop staring furrowed-browed at the sidewalk just ahead of my feet and start looking up at the houses and trees and squirrels and sky. That's when I can really breathe. And that's what I'm hoping to find my way back to - a feeling not of just making my way down the path, but looking up to wonder at things and take some deep breaths too.
Thank you - again and always - for listening to me and helping me and sometimes carrying me. I can never say what it means to have your support.