Friday, December 7, 2012

The Good Kind (Mostly)

Was feeling good this morning, so I ran out to get some Christmas decorations and the makings of Christmas cookies. Aside from the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses, inside and out, on a rainy day, I felt...normal. I pretty much forgot about you-know-what.

Then I came home. The answering machine light was flashing, and caller ID revealed three recent calls, the second of which was from Dr. M. I would like to report at this juncture that my adrenal glands are capable of producing a full complement of adrenaline on demand.

Heart pounding, I listened to the messages. Dr. M, in his lovely way, spoke calmly and clearly and said that he had some information he'd like to discuss with me, and could I please call him back at such-and-such number, which happened to be different from the number on the Caller ID. It was very difficult to hear the number over the pounding of my heart, but he thoughtfully repeated it before the message ended. One gets the sense he's done this before.

I called. The phone rang and rang, and I was sure it was going to voice mail. Then Dr. M. said hello. He must have given me his cell number. Because, in case I haven't mentioned it, he's the kind of doctor who doesn't leave his patients a scary message on Friday afternoon, leaving them to simmer in their own anxieties all weekend.

Remember when I said there were essentially two kinds of ocular melanoma? They're called Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 is the better kind to have; Class 2 is more likely to metastasize. Turns out Class 1 is subdivided into 1a and 1b. Class 1a is less likely to metastasize than 1b, but 1b is a lot closer to 1a than to Class 2.

I have Class 1b. What that means, as the doctor explained: survival rates at three years out are 93% (vs. 98% for 1a). At five years, survival rates are 79%. Not "there's nothing to worry about," but, as the doctor put it, certainly better than the flip of a coin. And way better than, "You're doomed."

I don't, apparently, have the laziest tumor known to man. But also, I don't have the most aggressive one. To put it in layman's terms, this tumor might be just ambitious enough to think about looking for a job, but it's going to be a job where it wears a plastic apron and a paper hat. A job, in short, that isn't going anywhere.

I can live with that. At least, dear God, I hope so.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Get What You Get

The nice thing about self-pity is that it gets boring for the person wallowing in it almost as quickly as for the people who have to listen to it. So, I'm back. I'm sure I'll slide into the Pit O' Self-Pity at some point, especially if I get bad news. But there's no point in wasting today.

As my son's preschool teacher often (oh, so often) said: "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." Not everyone can have the blue M&M or the piece of pizza with the most pepperoni. Life throws random stuff our way. Sometimes awesome, sometimes shitty. There's always someone better off and someone worse off. Always. It's not worth pondering for too long. It is what it is. Many people find that an annoying expression, but I find it honest, and useful. It's a polite way of saying, "There are some things you can't change, so don't mindf*ck them to death. Just move on."

So, today I paid some bills, did some laundry, finished stamping and mailing all the Christmas cards. I went shopping and planned a nice dinner featuring one of my favorite entrees, "le poulet rotisserie de Costco." Everything sounds fancier in made-up French. Also, did you hear me? I sent all the Christmas cards. On December 6. Because I am awesome. And also because last week I could do nothing but watch endless reruns of Little House on the Prairie and address Christmas cards. But mostly because of the awesome part.

Yes, I'd say I'm feeling a little more like myself today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Dichotomy

I have been a little extra-rattled since I decided to educate myself about the genetic analysis of the type of cancer we're dealing with here.

In a nutshell: if the tumor has both copies of Chromosome 3, it's pretty unlikely to metastasize. This means, with the exception of scans a couple of times a year, life pretty much proceeds as normal. If it has one copy (monosomy 13), it's got about a 66% chance of metastasizing. If it metastasizes, it will kill me. Not may. Will.

That's a pretty stark dichotomy we've got there. It's either really good news, or really bad news. And it's coming.

As an Orthodox Christian, my prayer is, of course, "Thy will be done." But look, God's no dummy. He knows what's in our hearts and minds. He knows how I want this to play out. Heck, you know how I want this to play out, and "all-knowing, all-seeing" isn't even on your resume, am I right?

Hence, the spiritual dilemma: I am trying to accept whatever my fate will be, trusting that it is God's will, that, even if painful or difficult, it will work out for the best. But my heart is screaming and raging: please, God, don't take me away from my family. I want to see my kids grow up, marry, have kids of their own. I want to hold my husband's hand as we grow old together. I'm not ready. I know, even in the worst case scenario, I would probably have a few years left. My heart says that's not enough (is it ever enough?). I don't want to make my kids, as young teenagers, watch me die. I don't want to break my husband's heart and leave him alone. I'm not afraid of where I'm going, but I can't help grieve for what I'd be leaving.

The news is coming. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in two weeks. It will be good, or it will be bad.

If it's bad, how do I make the most of the time I have left?

If it's good, how do I make the most of the time I've been given?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Little Good News

I went for my one-week follow-up appointment with Dr. M. today. I love Dr. M., in case I have not mentioned that. He's confident, competent, and compassionate, the sort of guy you feel you could trust with your life. Which is excellent, as that's exactly what I have to do.

The appointment went as well as it possibly could. The doctor says the eye is "healing beautifully," and he's also very pleased with my vision. I'm cleared to drive whenever I feel like it, and I'm cleared to return to my normal activities like housework at the end of the week in April, 2036.

We are still waiting on the genetic analysis of the tumor, which will tell us more about how aggressive it is, and thus how likely it is that it would show up somewhere else. That would be very, very bad. So, while rejoicing with me about today's good news, please continue to pray with me that the tumor is lazy and not terribly interested in making anything of itself. Perhaps its mother is calling it from some petri dish somewhere, comparing my tumor unfavorably to the cousin who graduated at the top of  his class and made all the medical journals. I'm hoping my tumor is too lazy to even pick up the phone, and lets its sniping mother fill its answering machine tape. Maybe my tumor is too baked to even care. I hope so.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Nicest Thing Anyone's Ever Done for Me

My neighbor Annie came over Friday morning and brought bagels and kept me company for an hour. She's really been incredible, especially considering she's only known me for a couple of months. She's brought meals, watched my kids, offered to drive me to appointments and clean my house. She's been there for me in a way I had no right to expect, but for which I'm incredibly grateful.

There are friends who are there for you.

And then there are friends who will go there for you. Wherever "there" happens to be. Even if it requires a two-day drive.

Annie noticed toward the end of our bagel date that I looked a little tired, and urged me to take a nap. So when she left, I dutifully trudged to the bedroom to relax. Deciding to check Facebook first, because it had been almost a whole hour, I sat down at the computer, when the doorbell rang. I figured that Annie had forgotten something, or that the Jehovah's witnesses were back. I peered out the window next to the door. The face looked familiar: not Annie, but definitely not a Jehovah's witness. I opened the door.

And there stood two of my friends from Michigan.

At first it was like when you're a little kid and you see your schoolteacher in the grocery store. You don't recognize them, because the context, to your little brain, is so totally wrong. But it was undeniable: there was Sharon, and there was Chris. And they were at my house.

My initial thought was that they had just spontaneously decided to road trip, which would have been cool enough. But it turns out that this was a carefully orchestrated caper, that my husband was in on it, and that it had been planned for weeks. Other friends, who had wanted to come but had other obligations, put together gift baskets filled with Michigan delicacies: Vernors ginger ale, BetterMade potato chips, Sanders fudge sauce, Tim Horton's coffee. Specially made t-shirts, candles, homemade cookies. A few mildly obscene items, because these are not the ladies from the church auxiliary.  Lots of wine. Rum and a pirate costume. A pie, with a vent hole in the shape of an eye. 

After ascertaining that they had not come to visit because my death was imminent, I relaxed and enjoyed the best surprise of my life. We didn't do much of anything special: ordered takeout, went to the farmers' market, played cards, made inappropriate comments every few minutes. Nobody gave me the double hand-clasp and stage-whispered that they knew I was going to be just fine, while looking like they were trying to decide internally what to wear to my funeral. I just had the best time all weekend.

When they left Sunday morning, they left quickly, so I didn't have time to get all teary-eyed. Having them around made me realize how much I had missed them these past 18 months. The only thing to do at this point is to make sure this tumor is eradicated and my vision is restored as fully as possible.

Then, I roadtrip.