So here we are, nearly 13 weeks after the surgery. It’s crazy how fast time has been flying on the one hand, but on the other, things seem to be moving at a crawl. I’ve been on what I’ve aptly dubbed as “house arrest” for what is beginning to feel like a small eternity. It’s just me, my cats, my unyielding thoughts and my crutches day after day in a sea of books, television, my loyal peeps/family and the occasional jaunt to a medical facility. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at life through a pinhole, craving the freedom and independence of escape but also feeling the fear of what lies in wait. I’ve been cooped up for so long I’ve become like a caged animal, afraid to leave captivity but feeling my base instinct telling me I am meant to roam free. There are days like today where I just feel full on anxiety wrapping it’s evil clutches around my guts, unsure of how I can truly relax. I have to remind myself that while this feels somewhat like purgatory, hell is miles behind me. That there has been a marked progression in my circumstance from where I was all those weeks ago. I can now crutch short distances without a wheelchair. I can cook myself meals, albeit with an annoying level of difficulty. I no longer need help bathing. I don’t need the support bars over my toilet to use the bathroom. I can sleep in my bed alone without being deathly afraid. I can sit here and type this post without crying out in agony from sitting. They are small victories but they are victories none the less.
People are always talking about taking things one day at a time and saying that one should always live their life in the present moment. I’ve always had extreme difficulty doing this and have definitely struggled with the concept of both throughout my tumultuous journey. The only thing I know is that the past is too painful and the future is too frighteningly uncertain. So I will do my best to just rest here in the present. As Emily Dickinson so poignantly wrote over 60 years ago; Forever is composed of nows.
It’s occurred to me that I haven’t mentioned a very important detail that was made known to me over a month ago. At my first post-surgical appointment, my surgeon and my oncologist informed me that I am now officially cancer-free. I was handed a 4-page pathology report that was made after analyzing the tumor, bone, muscle and other bits that were removed from me during the operation. It was mostly scientific mumbo-jumbo that a non-medical professional such as myself could not decipher, but the third paragraph told me everything I have been wanting desperately to hear; No tumor seen.
Everyone was very excited by this news; my family, my friends, my doctors, they all had one thing in common in their reaction to the diagnosis; They seemed to feel a genuine sense of relief. I was definitely pleased to hear that the cancer was gone but it wasn’t like when I found out the first time around. There were no tears of joy, no feelings of accomplishment nor the satisfaction of completion. Deep down I know it’s because I’m absolutely terrified that it could happen again. I remember the doctors being so sure that I would never have a recurrence after the initial sarcoma because I had reacted so well to the chemotherapy and they got good margins during the surgery and they managed to get the entire tumor, etc. I had clear PET scans for months after my celebratory party at the hospital and I thought that I was truly in the clear. It was all over…until it wasn’t. I didn’t even get to a year of being cancer-free, just 8 months. Ironically, I had a clear PET 4 weeks before I started to feel pain in my hip, pain that I was sure was due to the rigorous physical therapy I was doing at that time after my third surgery. But as it turns out, it wasn’t the PT and a tumor had managed to grow inside my pelvis in a matter of a month.
I know I’m lucky. I know it’s a miracle I have been able to live through any of this at all, but there’s a part of me that feels like it’s not over and a fear that it will never be over. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel like it’s time to celebrate and tempt fate. The fact is no one knows if this is really the end of cancer for me. I’m sure this is a common feeling among survivors who have had a recurrence. The fear of the unknown is almost suffocating sometimes. At this point in time, I have another 5 weeks of being homebound and non-weight bearing. After that I have to begin PT so I can learn how to walk again for the fourth time in my life. Maybe when I get through all of that and start to feel like a person again I’ll start to feel more of a sense of relief. I’m sure I will, but for now I just need to keep that little voice in the back of my mind quiet so I can move forward and live my life.