I’m sick of cancer. I’m sick of thinking about it, sick of being so immersed in it 24/7, sick of worrying about it, worrying about how much it’s affecting my family, I’m sick of thinking of how much it has changed the course of my life; I’m so tired of it all. Yesterday, I had my third PET scan, my second since starting treatment. I don’t yet have the results, and I am trying not to dwell on it too much. But I’m anxious. This week is also my last week of the 6th Ibrance cycle, the week in which my immune system is at its lowest. I’m slowly learning how to adjust pieces of my life to manage the side effects of each part of the drug cycle, but the learning curve has been painfully slow. On Monday night, I came down with an unpleasant stomach bug, and barely slept all night. Waking up early Tuesday morning for the scan was hard, as I can’t have anything to eat or drink prior to the procedure. My stomach was in knots from the bug, in knots from the anxiety over the procedure, in knots from the waiting.
The scan itself was uneventful, but on the drive home, I had to pull off the road – I felt so ill I couldn’t continue driving, and barely made it out of the car before I began heaving. I laid low the rest of the day, feeling anxious, queasy, and frustrated. In those low moments, it is easy to slip into dimly-lit tunnels of angst and anger. Why me? Why am I having to face this? Six months ago, we first learned of my bone metastases. Six months is a lifetime, and only a blink of an eye.
Six months started the coldest, darkest winter of my life thus far, a winter riddled with challenges and sadness, mourning the loss of the life I had anticipated and grappling with the life I had been given. Throughout those months, I searched for a sign – something, anything that would signal that things would be ok, things would get better. Signs came, and things did indeed get better. But in cancer, as in life, things get better and then worse, then better, then worse, then better and worse at the same time – not necessarily in a strictly clinical sense, but in a wholistic sense. These days, I see new life all around me – new babies cradled by friends, baby birds and ducklings peeping for their mothers, and can’t help but think that we could have had a different road ahead of us, one anticipating a new baby in our family. Even one in which I was earlier-stage, where I would be finishing chemo and radiation, recovering from surgery, and cancer-free. And yet, that’s not the road available to us.
A few months ago, Felix and I planted a garden. I felt the deep, instinctual need to nurture, to create something from literal dirt. We turned the rich, wet soil in our yard, and with no method or pattern or gardening knowledge to either of our credit, we planted dozens of little seeds. From the wispy flecks of carrot and broccoli seeds to the hefty seeds of bean, pumpkin, and squash, we scattered them along the side of our house and willed them to grow.
I had no idea what to expect, but about a week later, minuscule green shoots began poking out of the ground. Soon, those shoots grew leaves, and grew taller, until more and more of them nearly covered most of our garden patch, pulled upward by forces far greater than anything I could provide. Last week, I noticed tiny buds forming along the leaves, nubs barely the size of my smallest toenail. These buds grew and swelled until this morning, when, unable to contain themselves any longer in their current state, burst open and flowered. My garden was growing. The tiny seeds we had scattered on a hope and a prayer (and a remarkably rainy spring) had grown, flourished, and bloomed.
A seed does not promise a sprout, and a sprout does not promise a flower. A flower does not promise a fruit or a vegetable. But the presence alone of the flower promises, in that moment, the existence of hope, the anticipation of good things to come. I can’t predict my scan results, and I can’t know what is to come. But, like the blossoms in my garden that fought forward with instinctual tenacity, so to can I find the signs of hope in my own life, knowing that what is to come is not promised, but what is here now permits me to embrace the joy, the beauty, and the tenacity of the unknown, the possibility of something good.