Siberia, Antarctica, the holding rooms in the Diagnostic Imaging department at MD Anderson — these are among the coldest places on Earth. I bundled up in advance this time, so when one of the technicians walked by and asked if I wanted a blanket, I hesitated. “It’s free!” he shouted cheerfully. “It’s FREE!” Well, okay, if it’s free…
A year ago, I was full of tumor and hope and headed in for a major surgery. This Monday morning, I was short a few organs and a little anxious. In the consults immediately following the surgery, I wasn’t terribly nervous because if they’ve just taken that much out of you, what even is there for anything to grow on?
But this time was different. Between scans, I had some unexplained numbness in my hands, feet and face. I noticed every single ache and pain and bump.
But thankfully, I was able to celebrate a major milestone: I am one year NED! The physician’s assistant even told me as we looked through my scan that I had a “beautiful retroperitoneum” and that she used my scan as a case study (I will accept any compliment, even if it only involves my abdominal cavity).
Life in between scans (which are every 3 months), is pretty great. Right after a scan, I don’t worry about much at all; I stick to my routines with diet, exercise and mindfulness. I nag my teenagers and white-knuckle my way through my student driver’s rides. I go to games. I made good on my promise to go to my 30th high school reunion in Virginia. I saw my best friend from elementary school and close college friends.
Like many survivors who feel they’ve gotten a second chance at life, I feel called to do something to make things better for everyone else. Except that I’m still not sure what that is. The National LMS Foundation, an organization that is doing good things but whose logo makes me embarrassed to have the disease, asked me to create a video with advice for new patients, so I did that. I answer friends’ health related questions, with the caveat that you should not take medical advice from a marketing professional.
I try to keep up with research. My mom is now stage 4. She just got back from a great trip to Taiwan to visit family.
The work of treating cancer is evolving – and it seems to me that the most effective treatments will be a combination of metabolic therapies and targeted therapies. There are lots of things that are slow to be explored because, like any industry, cancer research involves people – who have egos and personal agendas and professional goals and legal concerns — that can get in the way. When I find out interesting tidbits – about prevention, treatment, or wellness in general, I want everyone to know. Maybe making this information digestible is something I can do. I’m open to ideas.
Other than trying to ascertain my higher calling (or working in my current calling), I’ve been gardening whenever I can. I just got my first bee sting ever today, and was kind of excited about it. I joined the San Diego Rose Society, whose meetings I love because I am the only person under the age of 70, and nobody bats an eye if someone is foaming at the mouth or calls Betty “Ethel”(they also use this poor quality mic that makes everyone sound like bees, but it doesn’t matter because most people can’t hear anyway). I paint for fun. I’ve become a nut milker, having received a low-tech but effective milking contraption for my birthday. I am brewing kombucha, fermenting vegetables, and making yogurt.
If you, too, would like to get back to basics, making your life infinitely more complicated and unraveling the benefits of specialization and the industrial revolution, then I highly recommend the Living Homegrown Podcast.
The bright side
1 year NED. Enough said.