Over these past months, when someone has texted asking how I’m doing physically, I’ve often responded with something like, “Sore, tired, slow….but better than yesterday.” I have been determined to choose to see improvement, even if it could only be measured in millimeters. One less pain pill than I took the day before. A little more movement than the day before. A little farther walk than I could manage the day before. These millimeter mercies have been rescuing me from my emotions and lifting my eyes from the pit when bad news has come. And they’ve kept me holding on for a day like today.
I needed this news, badly. Yesterday I got the results from pathology regarding my last surgery. 16 lymph nodes removed. Number of lymph nodes that showed metastatic carcinoma - zero. I read the report in my online chart but couldn’t bring myself to react until I’d spoken with someone at my surgeon’s office. I left a voicemail. An hour and a half later, they called me back and the case manager confirmed what I had read. No sign of cancer in these lymph nodes. Big, BIG sigh. And a few tears.
I had prepared myself to be okay if the report had shown cancer in even a few nodes, due to the fact my oncologist had told me I had an 80% chance of the cancer having moved beyond the nodes they had already taken in the previous surgery. But to get the news that ALL were negative…well, this was above and beyond.
As much as I’ve shared with you on this journey, there is a whole lot more I haven’t shared. Maybe someday. But when I tell you how badly I needed some good news, I mean I REALLY needed it. If you look at my cancer chronology in my journal, you will see how every piece of news I have received since the day I was diagnosed has been worse than expected. Every. Single. Time. It hasn’t always been a lot worse. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it was just millimeters worse. But always worse. I was starting to feel like nothing I had been putting my body through over the past six months was working. I had been telling myself the physical pain was worth it because it meant progress, even though it rarely felt like progress. But I was beginning to think it was all for nothing.
Having to process all that negative news takes a toll. And when you heap that upon the pile of physical crap you’re dealing with, the weight of it all feels like more than you can bear. Worst of all has been having to continually deliver bad news to the people I love most. It brings me to tears even as I type this. So in the days since the last surgery while I waited for pathology, I had many conversations with God begging him for even the smallest amount of good news. Something I could pass along with joy and relief; not more news I would have to deliver with a positive, reassuring tone, all the while about to crumble inside. I prayed, “God just give me something small. Even if we’re talking millimeters better. Just please not worse.” And God came through.
Yesterday I got to send texts I hadn’t been able to before. Finally. And while this particular news doesn’t change my course of treatment at all, it does give me enough of a boost in my spirit to dive into the next phase of radiation, hormone therapy, and those stupid grapefruit-joy-denying chemo pills. I’m a long way from being able to be declared cancer free, but it’s okay. Today, I celebrate something good. And I’m just so, so grateful.