I had a few other titles for this post sliding around in my brain. After getting up and down to move the cat out of my daughter’s bedroom a few times, this is the only one that had stuck, so I’m going to go with it in spite of the cheesy wordplay. Partly, that is because it is also an accurate summation of my perspective.
Today is November 7th, 2014. It’s a Friday. And it is a good day.
Yesterday, after three-odd months of waiting and questions and test after test, I finally received a diagnosis from my doctor regarding why I haven’t been feeling precisely top-drawer recently. It turns out that, in general terms, I have Stage 4 Lung Cancer. More specifically, I have Adenocarcinoma, which is a non-small cell form of lung cancer, and it has spread from the 3 odd centimeter mass in my left lung to a few lymph nodes and eventually down to my hip bone. And I am so thankful to have this diagnosis. Not because I am pleased to “have cancer,” which would be kind of perverse, but because now I know what I am dealing with and I can get on with it.
The past few months have been very trying, mostly because they have been full of unanswered questions and more and more waiting. Each test seemed to lead only to more questions. Part of this is due to the fact that I am quite healthy at 46, a non-smoker and, aside from a mild shortness of breath, I don’t really feel sick. While a few days here and there have been difficult and I had been feeling quite lethargic around the time this was first being explored, the past two months especially have found me feeling progressively better, more energized and all-around healthier virtually every day. My profile was such that, when my biopsy was done this past Monday, the pathologist made extra slides to confirm his findings. Nobody seemed to think this made any sense.
Yet, I feel clearer and more relaxed today than I have in weeks. And I’m good with the diagnosis. It doesn’t fill me with fear and trepidation. What it does do is show me that I have very specific choices to make and that I must pick a path to follow. I’m not yet certain of what those choices are, because I have a week of fact-finding ahead of me, which will include meeting with specialists and more tests. But the number of doors to walk through has already been dramatically reduced and soon there will only be a few left. Each of those doors leads down a different path, but in a way they are all the same one:
The Way Through.
And this is the thing about cancer, or any other illness, affliction, disease or condition that we don’t want to have. Each of them requires that we find a way through it. If the healthier version of ourselves lies on the other side of this issue that we have to deal with, then we can view it as a tunnel or a mountain or a jungle or whatever; it doesn’t matter, because in the end the mire, the gunk, the whatever you want to call it, must be passed.
So, I could have called this entry:
Hey, I’ve Got Cancer! (And Maybe That’s Not Such a Bad Thing.)
Because I am going to learn from this. I’m going to grow from it. It will force me to become stronger, because I have this funny desire to finish most of the work I have started before I reach retirement age, and I have visions of a luxurious retirement that I intend to share at the appropriate time. As I am already behind schedule on this, I’ve got to up my stamina and speed and that requires some serious strength training.
And I have to be clear, also: this is not a Survival Guide, because that presupposes cancer is going to destroy you before you even begin to fight it. I do not feel it is best to look at cancer as something to survive. That isn’t the healthiest model, regardless of the stage. I look at this as what it is: something to move through. You have it, you have to deal with it.
And get on with your life.
That is my mission now. Sure, I’m adding it to a long, long, lengthy list of projects that I am dedicated to completing. But in drama we look for an overreaching arc, and this is mine.
I’ve got business to do. I’m doing it.