In the last week or so, I’ve received positive health news. I know, it took me a while to believe it, too. My bloodwork has improved, indicating that hopefully this treatment is eradicating the cancer cells zooming around in my blood. I also learned that my heart function, an organ I was disappointed to learn was not carrying its weight, has significantly improved. That was a huge relief. I tried not to think about the heart thing too much because you know, the heart seems like a pretty crucial functioning body part. So I don’t think I realized how much the stress of its non-cooperation was weighing on me. E was, of course, convinced my heart was fine, but I did not share his confidence. The bloodwork had been critical as well and I know E was very nervous about that. Even my oncologist tried to keep me thinking positively but hinted we needed to see some progress.
So, yeah. I got good news in small doses. I did feel some relief. I started to look toward the future with a barely imperceptible level of hope. Maybe I could plan a trip. Maybe I could exhale a little bit. Maybe I could feel somewhat normal again, like the early days of 2021 where I thought I could live with this disease for quite some time, before I had progression after progression and before treatment after treatment failed. Before the disaster that was the fall of 2022. It helps that despite a few days of an off feeling in my stomach, I feel pretty good. I know people who spend over a week in bed after they receive this treatment. But not me. Apart from what we are chalking up to a stomach bug, I have felt pretty okay. I have gone for a walk almost every day, been able to eat just about three (sometimes, four) meals a day, my hair is holding on thanks to the horrors of cold-capping and I’m using my cane less and less. And I say it helps because mentally I always feel better and more optimistic when I’m feeling physically well. But I can’t stop myself from worrying that the lack of side effects translates to lack of efficacy. Chemo has such a bad reputation, well-earned of course, that we expect ourselves to be physically annihilated by treatment. And when we’re not, when we can actually function and we don’t look or feel sick, it can lead to whole other type of negativity spiral. Instead of feeling so sick that death must be around the corner, now I’m feeling rather well so death must be right around the corner. It’s an incredibly fucked up way to think, but this what an incurable cancer diagnosis does to a person. You want to accept good news and feel some hope but the underlying facts don’t change. The ground you’ve been standing on has been shaky for so long, you don’t trust its stability.