Something my oncologist said at my appointment last week has really stuck with me. And the fact that it stuck with me this whole week with everything else that was going on means it must be important.
My appointment last week was a “big” appointment, where my parents and I got the results from my last scan and we asked questions about what’s going to happen next. Unfortunately oncologists aren’t also fortune tellers, so the “what’s going to happen next” questions aren’t as fulfilling as they could be. But it’s hard not to ask them anyway. Future aside, what’s happening in the present is my chemo continues to work. And I will continue to see my oncologist once per month between chemo cycles and get a scan every two months to make sure the chemo is still working.
I think we were in the middle of asking about other therapy options. And my oncologist stops, looks at me, and says, “I think you are doing so well that you don’t know how well you’re doing.” I must’ve looked confused after he said it because he quickly said, “If you know what I mean. I have a lot of neuroendocrine patients who would be very happy with your results.” He went on to say that originally, all he had hoped for was stability and no growth because my tumors appeared to be relatively hardy. Instead, he’s seeing significant tumor shrinkage and, on top of that, I’m tolerating the drugs very well. (Except this week. This week my liver is working a little harder than usual. Don’t worry–I haven’t been drinking. But I did have to take another week off the chemo.)
I am starting to realize, again, that I often get so wrapped up in the global implications of this diagnosis that I forget about now. My disease is called the same thing as the older people in the waiting room at my oncologist’s office, and the disease that the two young adults I know who died from it had, and the disease that the screenwriter of 50/50 had, and the disease that my friend’s aunt who’s on hospice has. But neither I, nor my oncologist the not-fortune teller, nor all these other examples of cancer I know of, nor medical journals, know what will happen in the future.
They don’t need to, really. A liver transplant is many, many years away. The day my chemo stops working or becomes too toxic for me to tolerate is also years away–or maybe it will never happen. I am living now. I am going to school now. I am happy and feeling good now. (I was going to say “happy and healthy” but I don’t think I could really be confused with “healthy” despite the fact that I feel and look good.)
With that, my oncologist had to leave. “I have a very sick patient that i’m very worried about that I need to see.” And as we were walking out, I could hear his voice echoing down the hall, “I’ll call the emergency room.”