Time flies, and today I realize I’m just about midway between last checkup and the next one and how’s that for shit sneaking up on you? The latest was so uneventful, so completely no-news-is-good-news, that it faded from memory almost immediately. I don’t even recall now whether I went to my favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate as has become my post-checkup habit since that little bump last fall turned out to be nothing, although if I did I’m sure whatever I had tasted good. With cancer for the time being not a threat vector there are so many other things to remember instead.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. I do every day, about how remission doesn’t mean “cured”: there is no cure. It only means the disease isn’t active at the moment. I think about it especially when I check my Facebook feed because after last checkup I joined two groups, one for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in general and one just for follicular non-Hodgkin’s, and there’s a lot of activity on both that I read carefully because at the least I want to learn the terminology of this thing that might yet kill me someday. Rituximab maintenance, R-CHOP, W&W, stage vs. grade: what does it all mean, and shouldn’t I know in case remission proves only temporary? During treatment I blocked most such information from my mind; now assimilating it feels like a luxury I can afford.
And, I frequently remind myself, this is who I am now: someone who tangled with the Big C and is still around to chat about it on Facebook. Although I don’t yet have a lot to say in the groups; far as I’m concerned there’s no rush because I’m not quite two years post-treatment with three years of checkups and scans and worrying about bumps that might be nothing still to go before medical wisdom declares I’m truly out of the woods. No matter how successful I might be at taming the stress that comes with each checkup cycle – and I think I did a pretty good job this last time, partially because I made a point to expose that stress by writing about it here – I’m going to be faced with it again and again for awhile to come. And even after those three years I still won’t be sure it’s over. That’s something I’ve learned from others’ stories in these FB groups, one of those things you don’t really want to know while simultaneously glad you do.
The groups are full of stories about those with NHL carrying on best they can, which in many cases is just fine thank you very much: those in remission fifteen years and counting, those who recently ran a half-marathon while waiting for treatment to start, those whose fears of their future were eased by switching to the right doctor. Others write about struggles with fatigue that continue long after treatment ended (of particular interest to me, of course), or how post-diagnosis they find it hard to recognize their relationships to friends and family or even themselves. How they’ve learned that everything changes with cancer.
We all learn that. And knowing it, we carry on. For those of us who can, there are so many other things to do than be only a person with cancer.
(Photo: sometimes carrying on is nothing more than going for a walk in the evening. And enjoying the rewards thereof.)
(Republished from my personal Facebook account)