Which is to say, I still have cancer, and unless something miraculous happens, I will always have cancer. Recurrent endometrial cancer (aka recurrent uterine cancer) is inoperable, incurable, and terminal. There are something like four different forms (I think it’s four) and I have the one with the worst prognosis.
However, it is treatable. My cancer cells have progesterone receptors, which means that doses of progesterone can keep it stabilised at a low level. For how long? Impossible to say. Could be months. Could be a few years. Could be more than a few years. Nobody knows…just like someone without cancer. Technically, I’m still terminal but now the more accurate term would be incurable. My own preference is incorrigible.
I like to think that the longer I live, the longer I’m likely to live but that’s not really true with recurrent endometrial cancer. That’s recurrent endometrial cancer, not a one-time occurrence as most cases of endometrial cancer are. My oncologist made it clear: this can turn around and bite me at any time. If I continue to lose weight (yes, I still need to lose weight) and maintain healthy eating and exercise habits, I’ll increase my chances of living longer. But there are no guarantees either way. There’s no five-year anniversary for me because I’m not in remission. Being in remission would be a miracle.
Correction: being in remission would be a bigger miracle than the one I’m living right now. It is at least slightly miraculous, in my opinion, that I am not looking at the last six months of my life after all; that I am not in pain; that my cancer has decreased to such a minuscule level that my straight-shooter, down-to-earth oncologist who couldn’t crack even a faint smile when we first met now beams at me every time I see her.
Some days, I actually forget I have cancer. Being a cancer patient isn’t all that I am but it’s something I’m always going to be. I live twelve weeks at a time; I make plans only within each twelve week period. I don’t think any farther ahead than that and on week eleven, I don’t even buy green bananas.
That’s okay. Could be worse. Eventually, it will be. But it isn’t today and today is all I have to worry about.
My oncologist was smiling broadly even before she called my name.
The level of cancer in my body has fallen again, this time very slightly. The rest of my tests are perfect. Unquote; she said perfect. She also likes my I’m Making Cancer My B!tch t-shirt. I am killing this cancer thing.
I was so friggin’ tense before this latest appointment that all I’ve been able to do for the last day and a half is sit and stare. Don’t ask me what I was staring at; I don’t remember.
The year’s half over. I imagine I’ll be just as tense about the next appointment but that’s in September. In fact, I’ll probably get more nervous as we get closer to the end of the year. But all I have to do is get through the next twelve weeks.
The nervousness always starts in the last two weeks before The Day. I double-check my calendar to make sure I’ve set a date to go for the blood-test, and that it’s far enough in advance so the results will be available on the day of my appointment. Then I triple-check that I’ve set a calendar alarm for both the blood-test and the oncologist appointment because if I don’t, there’s a good chance I’ll get the dates mixed up. That’s the morning sorted.
In the afternoon, I do the whole thing again, just to make sure.
And then the next day: check, rinse, repeat.
It sounds kinda OCD and I suppose it is, whether I want to admit it or not. I don’t; I don’t think of myself that way but really, we all are, some more so than others. Old Eternal (aka my late mother) lived by routine. As a single mother working full-time and raising a kid, routine and organisation were her greatest weapons against chaos and danger.
My mother always coloured within the lines because that was how she could fulfil her obligations and responsibilities. But she had one funny thing: whenever we left the house, she would make sure the door was locked by trying knob thirty times to make sure the lock had caught and the door wouldn’t suddenly spring open after we were gone. I could hear her counting under breath. I tried assuming locking-up duties myself but it didn’t help. It didn’t matter who locked the door, she had to try it thirty times before we left. And I had to stand there and watch, to make sure she didn’t walk off and absentmindedly leave her keys in the lock. The woman who lived upstairs from us had done this, not on her way out but when she had come home from shopping. The keys stayed there all day until finally the guy across the hall came home from work, saw them, and knocked on the door to give them to her. She told my mother about it thinking it was kind of funny in retrospect, not realising this was one of my mother’s worst nightmares.
Well, at least I don’t have a set number of times I have to check the calendar.
But even if I did, what the hell. So I’m quirkalicious. Who isn’t? Could be worse. Has been worse.