I showed up for my neuro test and treatment in my Book Signing Barbie suit, because prior to my appointment I had attended some meetings. The night before I had attended my karate class and talked with a friend about the upcoming Messiah concert (which by the way will no longer have any arias in it, so my Easter tradition of "cancer freak has half a mind to sing Messiah solos" appears to have ended for non-medical reasons). Reflecting on all these activities with a small grin, I realized that this was not what I envisioned two years ago. Back then I was unable to drive, I was in my initial round of chemotherapy and radiation, and living under the threat of a "maybe fourteen months" lifetime of deterioration. The life I enjoy today is much better. It's the life that many people have prayed for (and are still praying for), and I am very grateful for that.
Thus begins the sixth of six planned maintenance treatment cycles. In four weeks I have a turning point MRI. If this one is good, the plan is to graduate from "maintenance" to "monitoring." For as long as the tumor cells stay "asleep," I would be free from bi-weekly chemo infusions. Free from weekly labwork, where the phlebotomist and I go searching for a non-scarred vein. Free from daily Benadryl to help me cope with my allergy to Avastin. The only thing I'd miss would be the regular interaction with the chemo nurses, because their humor is just as therapeutic as the drugs they administer. In exchange, I may get to be more nervous about MRI scans, but I've been there and done that before. It's like Barbra Streisand dealing with her stage fright, perhaps. In time you get used to it and channel that energy into something that works. (And in my case, I float on everyone's prayers.)
If next month's scan ends up with bad news, my doctor still has other tricks up her sleeve. I've seen patients go from hearing "I'm sorry -- just put your life in order" to reminiscing about it long afterward. The Lord's plan is more potent than a mass of tiny cells with DNA gone bad. The power of prayer can still summon miracles and sustain me through whatever must be. So there is still room for hope.
Even if the monster awakens with a vengeance, AND if it's time to put down my pencil and turn in my life's test, then there is still room for hope. In his recent passing, President Hinckley shared his testimony of that hope in a poem that was put to music for his funeral:
What is this thing that men call death,
This quiet passing in the night?
'Tis not the end, but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light.
O God, touch Thou my aching heart
And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure,
Give peace and strength beyond my tears.
There is no death, but only change,
With recompense for victory won
The gift of Him who loved all men
The Son of God, the Holy One.
(Yeah, I think Head Games could be easily bumped from my blog soundtrack to make room for this one!)