We were expecting the pathology report to be shared at our oncologist meeting last Tuesday and I observed my detachment of the possible ‘verdict’ leading up to this moment. Of course, I would have chosen “a complete response” meaning no cancer cells remaining in the tumor that was removed through the surgery over “residual disease” (still cancer cells remaining). Yet, would the results have changed if I’d wished for one way?
So, I came to the meeting with 50:50 odds. The mentee doctor to my oncologist has yet to acquire experience in the field. I detected (or projected) awkwardness in her first question to us “Did anyone tell you about the pathology report?” It was telling which side of 50 I was about to receive. She was not really asking if I had heard from anyone else (because I wouldn’t have) but dreading to be the bearer of the news. I learnt in my life and sharpened my sensitivity to it during my coaching years that we have ways of trying to soften the impact of ‘bad news’, sometimes to protect the other party and more often than not, to protect ourselves.
So our bad news was that there were still cancer cells remaining in the tumour. This means that we’ll need to continue with more chemotherapy instead of just the targeted ‘herceptin’ drug therapy. This prolongs the treatment program by several months. That’s not the end of bad news though. Apparently, the kind of cancer I have is now determined to be estrogen positive (previously negative), and that extends the treatment program with an additional 5 years at the end of the chemo/drug program.
I was more confused than disappointed by the news. Was there an error in the initial pathology report? Or is my cancer mutating? Would we have had a different treatment program with this new diagnosis from the beginning? What is my prognosis now? What will be the quality of my remaining life? With a myriad of questions, immediately my solution-seeking and uber-planner brain started the process of alterations due to the news. i.e., we should cancel our trip to Korea scheduled for this fall.
Since this news, some of the questions have been answered. My prognosis hasn’t changed (so more likely to live than die in the near future), it is JUST a longer process. And no, it’s highly unlikely that my cancer has mutated but rather the first pathology report was incomplete and another biopsy at the time most likely would’ve captured the estrogen-positive result. Our oncologist didn’t request the second biopsy then because the treatment, either way, would have been identical.
The adaptable us processed the information separately and together and lifted ourselves and each other up. We will play the cards we are dealt. We will focus on what’s in our control. We are here today alive. We cannot even count just how many blessings we have in our lives including having each other on this rather bumpy journey at this time. Some friendships that have deepened are invaluable. This is a life and love-affirming journey, and I don’t see it any different moving forward.
So, friends, don’t be sad for us. Instead, celebrate with us our aliveness today, the connections that we deepen, the positive impact that we can still choose to make, and even the aspects of the ups and downs of our life trials and tribulations. Because we won’t appreciate the ‘up’ unless we have been down just the way we won’t appreciate life unless death is also our reality. We can always find light in the dark. For we can create it from within us.
With acceptance, gratitude, and courage
The Truth Is Sometimes Hard to Hear
The truth is sometimes hard to hear
And harder still to accept
So much of our reaction fear
Of a future unmet
There’s nothing to make right
Why not throw away the oars
And let the wind be our guide
And watch the seabirds soar
In time, healing begins
And the sun will rise again
In time, love wins
Always my darling
Yet the truth is sometimes hard to hear
Our instincts to worry so strong
With the path in front unclear
It’s easy to miss the birdsong
Still, trust the universe this time
It’s good and kind
Don’t overthink, no hills to climb
Rest your weary mind
Yes the truth is sometimes hard to hear
But truth is like a compass at sea
We need it to find our way home from here
Back to the heart of our peace