Yesterday we drove through a snowstorm an hour and a half to the cancer center where I was to have my follow up appointment and consultation with an oncologist. We got there late and I was already frazzled. As we parked in the parking garage and walked the eerie blue lit tunnel underground to get to the building the cancer center is in, I couldn't help but look around at the facilities and think, wow, several city blocks of hospital surround us, hotels, restaurants, art, it is almost like a vacation spot....almost like a weird Disney World...just not fun.
We walked through corridors, took escalators, passed fountains and modern art, up the elevator, down a hallway and to the cancer center. There was a time, I believed the genetics office waiting room was the worst kind of Hell on earth, but that was before I'd spent time in a cancer center. Sitting there in the waiting room, the pain is palpable. You look around and imagine what each person's story might be, never really knowing. You strike up conversations with folks who "get" your anxiety and offer a look of complete understanding.
I was by far the youngest patient in the waiting room while we were there yesterday. I sat and watched as people wheeled through in wheel chairs, pushed IV poles, walked through the bone marrow transplant doors, and adjusted the babushka on their head revealing the results of their chemotherapy. It is a place that makes your heart just sink. Cancer. A word feared by most, everyone in that room is dealing with it. While the pain is palpable, so is the hope...the resilience and strength. Smiles through the hurt, tears of understanding. It is a whole world you don't know exists until you are there.
My name was called and we went back to sit in an exam room. Howard hung my coat and we sat down blankly staring at the chemotherapy posters on the walls. The nurse sat and asked me a bunch of question and told us the doctor would be right with us. First in came the surgeon. He said that all looked well with my incision sites, that I'd still need time to rest an heal and that some fluid accumulated under my arm but that it should dissipate as time goes on. He removed a few stitches, realizing they probably still needed to stay in, Howard bandaged me back up and we asked what was next. He said, as it stands I am a stage 2A melanoma patient, that the results from pathology were as good as we could possibly have hoped for and that he thought the prognosis was good. He said to quit reading the internet and to just know that everyone's cancer is different and statistics can't predict what will happen. He referred me to a local dermatologist who I will need to see every three months to monitor for new melanomas.
Then he cheerfully shook our hands and said to live life and just be aware of my body. There is a chance it could come back but there is an even greater chance it won't. He walked out and a few minutes later in came the oncologist. He was a tall man with kind eyes. He said that based on my staging that he thought the prognosis was good and that we'd do a lymph node exam and overall exam every three months for now, as well as a dermatology appointment every three months and we'd possibly do blood work and chest x rays once a year. He asked about my kids, he said he and his wife also have five kids and that he doesn't see any reason why I won't be there to be a mom to my kids for a very long time.
It was all good news. The thing is, despite that good news, I didn't feel all that relieved. I struggle still with fear. I know that God is bigger than all of this. I know that He holds it all in the palm of his hand and I trust Him. The thing is....I have melanoma. There is always a chance something could be growing slowly without my knowledge even internally and I don't know it. I want to be here for my kids. Growing up without a mom is not something I want for them. I look at Howard and he's been so great. I love him more every single day and I look forward to growing old with him. I guess the thing that I feel this is all working on in me is that I have been given TODAY. I need to really live it to the fullest. None of us are promised a tomorrow, and focusing on tomorrow robs us of the gift of today. I am grateful for a good appointment, a little grocery shopping and a date lunch holding hands with the person in this world I love most. The fear still creeps up, and I need to be vigilant with doctors appointments and taking care of my body. I can't control this cancer, but I can pray to the One who can.