The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both grow old.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I hope so.Modest Mouse, “Ocean Breathes Salty”
One day when I was a kid, I remember watching some special on TV about Nostradamus. I wasn’t old enough to know better, so at the time it seemed like it was a documentary. The special lined up all of the prophecies in order to determine when the end of the world was going to arrive. And then, The Grand Finale: The Mayan Calendar. It calculated that the world was going to end in 2000! While that was still a good 15 years away, I did the math in my head. 22! I will only be 22! That’s way too soon for me to die! 42 was ancient to me then. But 22?! My life would only just be beginning.
And in fact, at 22 my life was just beginning. Within two months of my 22nd birthday, I had graduated college and gotten married. But 42 seemed to be a lot less ancient. Now that I am 42, I would give anything to make it to 62. Ask a 62-year-old if they’d like to see 82, and I’m sure that the answer would be a resounding “yes.” I guess that most of us always feel that there is more to do. More life to live. Of course, I know that I will not see either of those milestones, so I will have to settle for 42.
Very few people get to know how old they will be when they die. So I guess I get to be one of the select few. When my birthday rolled around last Saturday, Facebook lit up with well-wishes. Some people dropped off desserts and flowers and gifts. And I soaked it all in. And everyone mutually agreed to NOT bring up the obvious- that (barring some VERY good luck with treatment from here on out) my 42nd birthday will be my very last. My last birthday. What a thing to have to process. And yet, I went through the day with great aplomb. I got breakfast in bed from my middle child, played a board-game with the kids, watched a movie with my boy and even had an at-home spa day (also courtesy of my middle child). I spent the day with my family and enjoyed it. And by evening, I was tired. So I went to bed.
I always pictured that on my “last” birthday that I would have a huge party and celebrate- especially considering that it’s happening while I am still young. In the end, it ended up being just like any other day. I am different now. I don’t have the energy that I used to have. I’m different now, I don’t care as much about the symbology. I’m different.
For the past 2-3 months, I have felt more like a “cancer patient” than ever before. This coincides to when my last line of chemo stopped working. Physically, I have just grown so tired. Mentally, I have grown tired as well. As I mentioned in my last post, acceptance and apathy look quite a bit alike. In the past 2-3 weeks? I feel like more than just a cancer patient. I’m starting to feel like I’ve begun the slow process of dying.
Good news could potentially snap me back again, but it has been slim pickings lately, and acceptance is worn easier on the body than constant pain, fear and grief. My tumor markers on my trial treatment are still shooting up to unprecedented levels. I am having weird side effects. And, especially in this past two weeks, my pain has grown significantly.
After a week of unexplained abdominal cramping and bleeding, on my team’s direction, I went to the local ER. What they found was that my abdominal cyst and my liver tumors were slightly larger, so they sent me home. This week I had a follow-up with my gynaecological oncologist. He’s concerned about the bleeding. I should be past the post-menopausal bleeding phase by now. So next week, I have a trans-vaginal ultrasound and depending upon how that goes? A uterine biopsy. Add those to the liver biopsy and scheduled follow-up with my general practitioner, I will be traveling and going out for appointments every day next week. Look at all of the things that I get to go out and do during quarantine! I bet you are jealous…
Speaking of, my trip to the ER last weekend was not without exposure and suspense. I checked in right in front of a man who had apparently already been in the other local hospital system for COVID-19 after traveling back to Ohio from NYC. I didn’t catch the whole story, but for whatever reason he had been asymptomatic in quarantine and left or something, and now he was right behind me, feverish and hacking. He was wearing a mask, and I was wearing a mask, so all good right? And then a nurse asked me to take my mask off right there to stick a thermometer under my tongue. Something was definitely wrong with this process, but I only have the energy to fight so many things. I am officially one week past the incident with no COVID-related symptoms YET. I’m still hoping that that’s one medical catastrophe that I can avoid.
So… here I am. Forty-two years and six days old, with lots of medical warning signs going off all over my body. Lots of things could be changing already in the week or weeks ahead. And all that I have now is questions. Are my body aches and persistent fatigue because of the treatment or the cancer? Why do I now sleep ten hours or more a night? Do I have a uterine tumor, thus far undetected on any scans? Is my cancer on the verge of exploding everywhere because my current trial treatment isn’t working?
Do I have two months, six months or ten months left? Is that miracle that lets me stay around longer still hiding under a rock somewhere? Do I get to go out and enjoy the summer, or am I about to take a decline? Do I get to see my oldest daughter start high school? Do I get to vote in the next election? Do I get another Christmas with my family? Do I get to see 43? So many things out of my control. The only thing that I do know is that I have today. And it’s supposed to be a beautiful day. I think that I will take an Oxycodone and get myself outside…