One year. I would just like to make it one goddamn year without having a test come back positive. I haven’t been cancer free since I was eighteen. I haven’t made it cancer free for one year the past six years. I’ve long been regarded as an optimist, finding the silver linings in my unfortunate situation. Over the past two years that optimism is waxing thin, sanded down to an opaque membrane exposing a jaded skeptic with each reading of test results.
I’ve come to expect this annual as normal, as part of who I am. Every fall I received a new adventure to figure out. How bad will it be this year? Potential lung mass? Liver mass? Treatment? Radiation? Low iodine diet? Surgery? Five day hospitalization? Isolation? Modified radial neck dissection? Nope, this year it could be an ethanol injection. Hell, who really knows?
I’m in an abusive relationship with UCLA medical facility. I love them because they find the cancer when others don’t know what’s wrong. I loathe them because they tell me they found the cancer when others don’t know what’s wrong.
Last week, the Chief of Radiology at UCLA gave my annual ultrasound. After pushing on my neck for a few moments he informed me my left side was clear. I was relieved but still felt some trepidation as he proceeded to the right. A few moments later, “I’m sorry, but it has returned. This is an irregular node. It’s the exact same thing we found last year.” How? How after I’ve had seventy-nine lymph nodes removed from my neck, can this be returning?
A biopsy later and I was out the door. We’re still waiting on the final report, but the biopsy shows the results are indeterminate – medical speak for “it depends.” Indeterminate – the word no one wants to hear as they’re trying to figure out if their world is going to flip upside-down once again. Cancer is one pesky little bastard.
As my dear friend, Christine, said when I told her the news, “This some bullshit,” because, quite frankly, it is.