Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It Is What It Is

One thing that sent me reeling was the 'onc' report. That report talks specifically about the cancer. It refers to it as highly aggressive. Because of this report, the oncologist decided that I should have the strongest chemo they've got. Since my goal has been, from the beginning, to fight this once, and be done, I'm certainly willing. But what knocked the wind from me was to read the data that gives it a 39% chance of recurring in the breast. That same data shows a 27% chance that it will move somewhere else in my body. I looked at those numbers, and I could not breathe for a moment. This last month has been full of shocks, but this one was a biggie. Suddenly, my goal of fighting like hell, winning, and then moving on, seemed pretty naive. I've been telling myself that all I've got to do is endure for the next six months.
I can endure.
I've endured before.
I'm actually pretty good at enduring...
Holding this paper in my hand, reading these numbers, suddenly reality shape-changed yet again.
It could happen again.
There is a very real chance that I will fight this fight again.
I pride myself on responding well under fire. I listened calmly to the doctor. Asked appropriate questions (I think), and when the appointment was done, I left the office and I calmly drove home. I wanted my husband badly. Neither one of us knew that this was 'the' big day, the unveiling of the treatment, we did not know that we would be getting a new, clearer image of the beast, an image that would reveal it to be a bit more beastly than we had believed it to be. And when I told him, he was speechless.
'This is not good.'
'Why has this changed?'
'How can this be?'
And we spent Halloween night sitting together on the steps downtown, handing out candy to the children. Quiet. Digesting this news. Each of us independently coming to grips with what lies ahead. We are both strong people, we are both enduring people. We're in it for the long haul. Still, this latest was a lot to digest.
It is what it is.
I do not talk a lot about my mother. My father died of cancer in 2000, on Thanksgiving Day. My mom and I are estranged. There's no sense trying to explain why. She will tell you that it is my fault. I know that it is not. I also discovered that mom's version of the truth is the version that makes her a pitiful victim. My mom has disconnected from two of her children in a very big way. I try to imagine one of my children dealing with cancer. The first thing that I would have to deal with is my own grief. My first goal would be to comfort my child. My mom cannot. She does not. There is no sense to trying to explain her difficult life. It would take too long. It begins when she was a baby, and left with relatives to be raised. The relatives, fearful that her real mother might return and take her, raised my mother with words like 'she did not love you' and 'abandoned'. I understand that my mother is a product of her life. I do not hate her. After a while, though, you simply get tired of the family dramas, and the anger, and the necessity of picking sides. I stepped away. I stepped out of the picture. I feel better for it, because while I was in the picture, everything was MY fault. Now that I am out of it, I feel much better, less anxious, less guilty. Although every problem my mother ever had was my fault, she's still got problems, a lot of them, and she is still a pretty angry person. Remember the dream that I had all those days ago, that I'd heard my mother's voice from another room? That sums it up as good as anything. My mother and I reside in different rooms. She can't hear me when I talk. She hasn't heard me in years. She'll tell you the same thing about me. The difference is, she'll be good and mad when she tells you about me. I'm not angry anymore. It's sad, but like so many other things in my life, it is what it is.
Mom called to check in. It was the first time that I've spoken to her since all of this started. Like I said, 'my wheels were wobbling' in a pretty big way. I usually keep things light, and assuring, and don't give a lot of details. This time, I told her about the recurrance rates. My mom said, "How's Tim doing? Is he back to work?" I said that he was, and my mother said to call if we needed anything, and the phone call was done.
It is what it is.


Pencil Writer said...

Time for quiet meditation. Family can be the greatest of blessings and the most difficult of trials, and all at the same time. I believe it is that way by design. And if we trust in that Father of fathers, we will come to know the peace only He and His Son can bestow. I know you believe in Him. I pray that this new "rocker" news will only further open that door to peace, strength, understanding and increased faith that ever emanates from our Father.

Prayers and hugs, Debby, from me to you.

Redlefty said...

I'm glad you've turned the tide in your own generation, and created a new family legacy to trickle down through your kids and their kids' kids.

No, I know it's not perfect and that you have your own dramas with them already. But it's a step, right?

If I was there with you I'd be in the same room, listening. Many others would too.

Mary Paddock said...

BUT! BUT! BUT! If you have a 39% chance of it reoccurring, then that means you have a better than 50% of it NOT reoccurring. That means that out of a 100 people 40 are likely to face cancer again, but 60 are not. Chances are good you will be one of the 60. :)

Further more------since you'll be monitored pretty closely from here on out, you'll be more likely to catch it before it gets very far.

You're in my prayers, Deb.


Debby said...

Mary, when you phrase it, it sounds pretty bearable. My math led me to this. I've got a 1 in 3 chance of meeting this again. I know that I will be monitored. I know that I will be very careful about nutrition and exercise to give myself the very best chance...but one in three? Eeeeeeeeeh. But it is what it is.

On a whole different tangent: Your book is done? That's great. Following the story of your story with interest.

Ditzy said...

Still here and still sending you healing and prayers......Ditzy

jeanie said...

Statistics are handy when you are trying to measure and fence in a problem, but they should never BECOME your problem.

Statistics are always historical. We are always getting better medicine. So that first number? Just something to aim for, and pray and paddle like fury that you will be one who moves the number into less scary territory for next year's Debby.

And that second number - its actually good to know, because it turns on the VIGILANCE light and means that when some crackpot dismisses your concern you can hit him with the "I don't aim to be a different statistic" and let him ride on THAT!

As for your Mom. It must be so hard, seeing her and loving her but knowing that it is far too painful to try and play that role just for her to see you.

And it must be hard loving your own children and having to do it all fresh and new without the guidelines of being not-your-mother.

Still, I suppose she didn't have any guidelines either - it is just such a pity that her made up version ends up hurting her children.

Lots of hugs.

Scotty said...

Good attitude and a positive outlook apparently plays a big part in these things too, Debby; I believe you have these in spades and your sense of humour should help out big time too.

I once had a huge argument with someone who firmly believed that family deserved special privileges in life even when they continually treat you badly. I disagreed with that. I can still love them, yes, but I don't have to allow them to treat me like crap.

Anonymous said...

Yes Deb, my first reaction was like Mary's. You have three chances it won't spread and only one that it will, likewise for the other stats. My onc was a great doctor and gave me the best treatment, but his handicap was that he was too pessimistic. I decided I needed optimists on my side as had read Bernie Seiler's story by then, so after treatment by him was finished only went to my surgeon who was great and positive, but realistic too.
Go to the best, but only listen to what you need to hear. Vigilance is necessary always but so is hope.
Go and read Bernie - you won't be sorry. Love and thoughts Barb

Bush Babe said...

What they all said... take on the bits you need, take note of the bits that are cautionary and take strength where it is offered and waiting silently for you.

We are with you Deb. You will triumph.

Lavinia said...

I was struck by how many times the word 'endure' appears in this post. Go and count! You're a fighter (oh that word, 'fight' appears more than once too!). Them's fighting words, and a fighting spirit. I pray it carries you through!

The drama with the mama---you are in a lot of good company there, Debby.

Bob said...

So glad you and Tim are in this together. "Two are better than one."

And a lot of us are in the room with you, friend.