The hardest thing–which is also, in a weird way, the easiest thing–about cancer is that I literally have no control over what it does. Sure I can decide to take my chemo or not take my chemo, but taking the chemo doesn’t suddenly hand me the reins, and having control over the chemo is different than having control over the tumors. All of these “big” appointments, all of these scans, they’re just filling us in on what has already happened. They’re week-old newspapers that we’re suddenly discovering. What is really happening is the doctors and I are running after the cancer as fast as we can but we can’t quite get there. It’s always one step ahead. It’s not maliciously one step ahead, it just is. It’s a faster runner.
When I “got” cancer on October 25, 2010, I already had it. For all we know, it could have been growing for 10 years before I started exhibiting the more unpleasant symptoms last year. 10 years! Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) grow relatively slowly–this is not the case with all cancers.
For example, this appointment I’m worried about on Monday. Or the ultrasound tomorrow. Whatever it is–or isn’t–growing near my ovary is already there (or not there). It has already happened. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing that my doctor can do. It’s fate, really. A really grotesque form of fate in which things happen, but they’re invisible, so you don’t know that they’ve happened, and then one day, they “happen” “again”. Like the tree falling in the forest–“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It’s weird to think about. I didn’t just get cancer a year ago. I have, quite possibly, had it for a long time. But no one was around to hear it, so it didn’t make a sound.
Well, now we’re around to hear it. Rather, we’re here to take pictures of it falling and we don’t look at them until a few months later. This must be frustrating for oncologists. They do everything they can to get ahead of the cancer, when, quite possibly, the one errant cell that took off somewhere else in the body to create that metastasis had already started traveling. In a way, this is comforting. It’s already happened. I can’t do anything about it. Except take my pills and do whatever else the doctor tells me to do.
Really, that’s all there is to it. It’s like preschool. I just follow the directions and do whatever the doctor tells me to do.
With all this talk about fate, i’m ignoring the “What caused this?” aspect, which could very well be the subject of a future post. Also the subject of a future post: what about my control over the cancer’s future growth? I haven’t determined that yet. So, maybe it’s been growing for 10 years, but it had to start sometime, somewhere, somehow. I don’t like dwelling on this generally because it’s not productive or possible to determine. I couldn’t have done anything to cause it. A NET is not like lung cancer which can sometimes, but sometimes not, be caused by smoking. Anyway, does it really matter what caused it if it’s already here and I didn’t overtly bring it upon myself? In the words of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in 50/50, “A tumor? Me? That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink…I recycle.”