I have reached a new milestone in this provocative journey.
My doctors don't say it, at least not in my presence, but I know that I was dying. Not in the way that we are all dying, in that we are growing older each day, but as in feeling the life force that is me, slip away. After my surgery in September, these same doctors were telling me that I should be feeling better each day. The days post-surgery turned to weeks, then months, and I was not improving. Instead, it became increasingly more difficult to perform the simplest tasks, beginning with arising each morning. There was no dramatic event; the two trips to the hospital were unpleasant, but there were no ambulances, sirens or melodramatic scenes a la House or ER. Just a feeling of quietly slipping away.
The changes brought on by Tarceva were subtle, until one day I again felt alive. One day I woke up and there I was. That's how I knew that this life-threatening disease had become, in fact, life-threatening.
I can't help but be filled with metaphors for this experience. I am fortunate to have so many fond memories, brought about by the wealth of people and experiences that are the fabric of my life. When I think of where I was in December, and where I am now, I see and feel sunlight. PFS. Since 6th grade, Carole has always been there reminding me to Pray for Sun. I had the feeling, way back then, that she was on to something, but I have now lived that phenomenon. It is winter, and January weather has not been kind to Atlantans, but I am enveloped in my own stream of sunlight. This is the recurring metaphor: from darkness to light.
There is another metaphor prominent in my mind at this point. I went from devastating diagnosis to drawn out staging process to simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation to Emory to MD Anderson (remember Medical Industrial Complex sometimes known as Cancerville?) to suspected metastasis then back to treatment then treatment hiatus then surgery then post surgery recovery that wasn't then back to Emory and back to the hospital (twice) and more consultations then more chemotherapy and more tests then another devastating diagnosis then Tarceva. It was like being squeezed through a very constricted and abrasive tube. Or tossed around in a dryer on a long, hot cycle. I can finally breathe now. Literally. My one lung, if cancer free, will probably provide me with a very decent quality of life, as far as breathing goes. (BTW, last year I bought my first new pair of ski boots in 15 years. I plan to use them.)
More difficult, I think, is coping with the effects, the scars, of where I have been. Even more daunting is knowing there is a high probability that the cancer will recur. Clouds that could restrict or block out the sunlight. Next month I will have the first scan since I began taking Tarceva. And perhaps I will be lucky enough to be able to face more scans over many more years. That would be a good thing. But first I have to prepare for this one.
Know that I am truly thrilled to get out of bed each day. It is a joy that previously went unnoticed and unappreciated. Now sunlight isn't just rays from the sun that I take for granted, and clouds are no longer innocuous vapors that simply come and go. Each precious breath now counts. Of course, each breath always counted. I just didn't know it or appreciate it. Aside from skiing, I am not sure how I will use this new found awareness. I want to be productive, that is a given. And for as long as possible, I will be walking, maybe even running, in sunlight.
If you're coming with me it's time to get a good pair of shades.