4. “You've Got to Ask Yourself One Question: ‘Do I Feel Lucky?’ Well, Do Ya, Punk?”
Yes! Yes, indeed. I feel lucky, I am lucky. Like an oyster with a pearl. Even with a stage four “incurable” diagnosis. Maybe especially because of it.
Today marks the six month anniversary of my diagnosis. What a ride it has been! I was in treatment the last few days, and having this day be treatment-free seems apt. It was a rougher ride this time around, my oncologist was trying to lower the dose of one drug and it threw me for a nauseated loop. However, I have good ways to work around that, and I did catch up on quite a bit of sleep. Remember my propensity for slumber? I’ve already bounced back well.
I do have some good news that I want to share with you. I received the results of my last CT scan and have lengthened the runway! The overall size of my liver and spleen have decreased, and the tumors there are starting to respond to treatment. I have more room in my abdomen and have no pain. The cancer in other areas of my body have either held steady or seen a slight decrease, except for tumor in my left iliac hip, which has grown. Not sure how to account for that, but it’s not an area of high concern yet, and can be dealt with localized radiation if necessary. As my liver is one organ that I can’t do without, I feel a palpable sense of relief and renewed zeal to keep moving forward.
Since launching my website and blog last week, I’ve been gorgeously overwhelmed by the positive response. While a simple thank you doesn’t seem like enough, please know that I deliver it from the depths of my being. Thank you for supporting me and investing in my integrative care.
Here I stand firmly rooted in the present moment, feeling so incredibly lucky. How far I’ve come. And I’d like to tell you why I’m so fortunate, if that’s okay with you. Here’s my baker’s dozen:
I have a loving partner who always has my back
I have an amazing family and dear friends who support me every day, cancer or not
My body is an amazing vessel, with an immense capacity for healing. I have deep love and compassion for its resilience, holding strong through diagnosis and treatment. I believe that my body knows exactly what to do to heal from cancer, given the right tools
I work for a good company with a respectful and considerate team, and make a decent living
I have good health insurance. There are no doors that are closed to be based on coverage, even though there are many things that aren’t covered
My husband and I are both smart people. We are able to comprehend the information given to us by medical professionals, understand the complex nature of this disease (and therefore the multi-faceted solution it requires), and be tenacious with my care
I knew exactly what my life meant to me before my diagnosis. I don’t have any regrets about how I’ve chosen to live. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t made mistakes, but I have owned them, learned from them and made amends when I’ve hurt others
I have strong reasons for living, and continue to work on defining these further. I love my life and have things I truly want to do
My definition of “incurable” only means that cancer cannot currently be cured with allopathic medicine. There are other options for complete healing that I can incorporate in conjunction with western medicine
I love to read and am able to use this to learn more about cancer and treatment options
I know how to say sorry and mean it, without adding emotional baggage
I am able to focus on self-care 100%
I have a great compassion and empathy for those who are also facing difficult challenges who don’t have the same resources I do. I am so deeply appreciative for all that I have
In that quiet place in my heart, I know how fortunate I am, whatever the future may hold. When I was diagnosed, I knew that I had the resources, or ability to easily acquire those resources, to meet this challenge in the way that I want to -- with courage and grace, and a deep well of love and self-compassion for when I fail to be courageous or graceful. I often think of that Robert Frost quote, “The only way out is through.” What other choice is there?
I’m not perfect, far from it. What I know from experience is that when I operate in a framework of great appreciation for all the things that I have, and not worry about those things I don’t, I feel that I’ve already won. In that appreciation, my days are joyful and my spirit is light. In Mary Oliver's poem, "Mindful," she writes: “Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight.” I know a thing or two about that!
Most times, I don’t care that I have an “incurable” disease (and yes, I will continue to put “incurable” in quotes), there are days that I don’t even think about it. It’s not what matters to me. What does matter is the way I choose to meet each day, and how I connect with those I love and that love me. That I begin with an anticipation and curiosity of what I might experience, share or learn. In the end, no matter how many days I have, that’s what I want to remember, and be remembered for.