“I love deadlines. I especially like the sound they make as they go whooshing by.” – Douglas Adams
I had January 1st pegged as the date of my big comeback. Start my press tour. Cut a duet with Rihanna. Perhaps be the Grand Marshall at the Rose Bowl parade (damn you Captain Chesley Sullenberger III!).
But alas – I had to hold off another couple of weeks into the new year.
The good news is: I’m cancer free. My latest PET scans confirmed that. There were some questions about a very, very faint hotspot but the doc’s think its nothing to be concerned about. We will follow up on the next PET scan.
My tumor never really reduced in size. I still have a 10cm lump of tissue in my chest that they think will eventually harden into scar tissue. Although it’s not affecting my heart, lungs or vitals, it was still creating the SVC syndrome that had been giving me problems for the past year and change. I still got dizzy when I bent over. Headaches. Pain behind my eyes. I still wasn’t able to work, exercise or perform any moderate activity. It’s one of the reason that I stopped writing on my blog – it was difficult to concentrate.
The other good news is: I got the stent that I needed.
This past Wednesday, I went into Santa Monica hospital and got my portacath removed and a stent put in in the same procedure. My doctor was fantastic and everything went very well. He was able to widen my Vena Cava from 2mm to 12mm. I now feel 6x better.
I won’t go into details about the procedure, but there was a good bit of me getting wheeled around the hospital (to the wrong places), a fair bit of shaving and I got to take my port home with me afterwards as a keepsake.
Cancer free. No more SVC syndrome.
Why so anti-climactic, Steve? Why no celebration or big announcement? Why do you kind of sound like (pardon the expression) a douche?
Well, first of all, I didn’t go on this journey alone. Because of this blog, I took a lot of you with me along for the ride. And there are certain people in my life now who have had their own share of ups and downs with cancer – Karin, JJ and others. I wish that everyone could have the same outcome as I’ve had. But cancer doesn’t work that way. And that brings me down.
Also, I was told recently that someone said of my clear scans and recent improvement – “It must feel like being re-born.” Although I appreciate the sentiment of this statement, I can’t say I agree with it.
The scars are too fresh. I’m not sure exactly what lesson I’ve learned through all this. I’ll always live with the fear of cancer coming back. Although I’m almost back to ‘normal’, I’m no longer sure exactly what normal is. And part of me feels guilty to be…dare I say it…cured.
I’m extremely grateful. To all of you. To my doctor’s and nurses. My wife and family. I’ve seen the best parts of people and learned a lot about myself and those around me. I’m grateful to not have those chemicals injected in me anymore. To not spend my weekends throwing up. To not have to smell the smell of the doctor’s office every week. I’m grateful for so so many things.
But ‘reborn’? I never died. I just…changed. And now, I’m changed back. But different.
So, I guess I’m learning who this new, changed version of me is right now.
For me, the challenge of being a cancer patient wasn’t only about being a healthier person. It is in some ways about being a better person. I’m not sure why that is. I feel, in some way, that this is also part of the process of being cured.
I’ll continue to keep you informed as to what secrets of life become revealed to me.
As always – thank you for the love and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.