Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A strange victory

As of this morning, I am officially "in remission" from the lymphoproliferation that had been growing in my face.  A non-cancerous tumor in the lymph tissue in my sinuses, this little bugger wasn't exactly harmful, but it was growing and who knows where it might have grown to if left to its own devices.  They discovered the mass in late August, and I began a 6-month course of treatment for it in October.  Had my last drug sesh just after the marathon in April, and today I had my PET scan to determine whether the treatment worked.  Supposedly, the treatment worked!  Targeted B-cell therapy - not technically chemo, but a drug with the same idea: seek out any rapidly reproducing and growing B-cells, attack and kill them!  Hilariously, though, this is the second time I have gone through this.  So, please forgive me if I'm not jumping all around in ecstasy because, I'm in remission! 

Yes, I am happy, beyond happy that the facetumor is gone.  But I suppose it could come back.  It has happened before.  Also, this past December was my five-year anniversary of cancer diagnosis.  This past December was when this was all supposed to be finished, five years worth of treatment and follow-up care.  Today, though, marks the beginning of another five years worth of follow-up.  Scans every three months for a year, then every four months, then every six months for the remaining three years.  Get all that?  It is a strange feeling, knowing that you have a doctor's appointment in three months to make sure there are no foreign masses growing somewhere in your body.  Cancer wipes out any sense of security we have about our bodies.  It gives root to a very deep, mostly ignored fear of betrayal by the one thing that is supposed to be impermeable: ourselves.  A tumor physically removed is tangible proof that we actually have no control over what happens to us.  Yes, we can quit smoking; eat more fruits and vegetables; remain active; wear sunscreen.  We can take actions to Lessen our chances of cancer or sickness, but no, we can't stop it.  I had leukemia, a blood cancer caused by a defective gene.  Doctors don't know what causes it or why it manifests in some people at certain times and not others.  Why did I get ALL when I was 20 and not three?  Why did my facetumor return without the presence of any viral instigator (as was the case the first time)?  Why does a 28-year old woman with absolutely no genetic predisposition and a healthy lifestyle develop a lump in her left breast?  There are no answers to these questions, at least not today, but we are still allowed to ask them occasionally.  I think the key is to not dwell on them, though.

I just had an interesting visual: my body is constantly at war.  I always considered this cancer thing a war, that I was fighting for my life with a little help from my chemotherapeutic friends.  Now, I have an autoimmune disorder where my insides are beating up my other insides.  I get to help this fight by eliminating the main catalyst, gluten.  But then I also ask crazy things of myself: wake up every day.  Bike to work every day.  Run 3, 6, 26.2 miles, Right Now!  In a sense, I don't want this battle to ever end.  I don't want to ever stop pushing my limits, testing the waters of recklessness and endurance.  Now with the gluten thing, I get to get creative with my diet and nutrition and fueling all these crazy adventures.  It is all very interesting to me (cue up another post on that...), and I like being in control of the madness that is my body.  I don't like tumors and uncertainty and having to rely on drugs to stay healthy.

There are also days (sparingly), when I feel like I cannot plan my life too far in advance.  I have a doctor's appointment in three weeks for my immunoglobulins.  I'll have another one in another three weeks.  I'll have a PET scan in three months.  I'll have another colonoscopy in three months.  Life lived incrementally, plans made around requisite hospital visits.  Forgive me if this post sounds ungrateful or whiney.  I've written loads before about the fact that I love my life, my world, am so thankful for the experiences that have led me here.  But I am ready for this medical nonsense to be finished.  And it won't be for at least another five years.  So, today, I get to grumble a little bit.  We always get to grumble a little bit.  Like I said above though, none of it is worth dwelling on.  We live the lives we have and make the best of it.  I am planning a vacation to my happiest place on earth in two months, thinking about grad school (there's that other post teaser again!), baking delicious gluten-free foods.  Life goes on.

And I'm planning on going for a run tomorrow morning, after the pint of ice cream I ate earlier settles down a bit.  So, awesome.  And I'm going hiking/camping/off-roading with good people this weekend!  And, haha, I'm in remission.  Again.  So, yay, life.  Thanks for stopping by...  Keep on running.

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