I've been to "one year" before, one and a half years ago. The doctor said to come back for a bit more blood work, for another scan. Those scans said: second primary tumor, hereditary. I wonder if the first cancer saved my life. There was no evidence, except in my blood. And no one would have been looking at blood under a microscope if I hadn't already been sick once before. Typical onset is 70, screening begins at 50, sometimes later. I was 35.
Monday was my "one year" from the end of treatment checkup. Last July during my 8th infusion of what was meant to be 12 doses of Folfox6, I began having trouble reading, then seeing, then breathing. Then I realized that I was having a reaction to the medications that were meant to kill the cancer cells. My face burned and I felt choked; I could hardly raise my voice to call the nurse. And in a flurry, a brief moment or two, the line was unplugged from the port.
The nurses called my husband and he drove from work to sit with me. For an hour, the nurses watched to make sure the side-effects were subsiding. I closed my eyes and practiced breathing until the air passed freely in and out of my lungs. My husband, held my hand. In my head, the storm of emotion raged, questions, doubts, and fear. If I could not continue these infusions, what would we have to do for treatment next?
After some time, the doctor returned to send me on my way home. What next? Clinical standards suggest twelve dose, but medicine is still a question, a guessing game, an art of conjecture, laboratory work, and faith. The reaction signaled the end of the chemotherapy and the start of wait and see. Now, blood work and scans.
Now attempt to return to normal life. Now the fog lifting, clarity, hope, and each day another chance to live better. To learn what I am meant to learn: mostly, that I cannot do it all on my own, no matter how able, how strong, how determined, how intelligent, how stubborn I may be.