On Wednesday I will be heading to MD Anderson in Houston to have my first CT scan since I started chemo. On Thursday I’ll find out the results as I meet with my oncologist. The hope is that we’ll see that my tumor has stopped growing, or at least slowed in its growth. Or if we’re really being hopeful then we’ll see that it is actually shrinking.
To be totally honest, I’m a little nervous about getting the results. For the past six weeks I’ve sort of just resigned myself to the fact that I’m doing chemo, and now I finally get to see if all that I’ve put my body through is actually doing anything to stop the little bastard (er, I mean, “my tumor’) from killing me. As I get closer and closer to finding out the results I find more and more questions coming to my mind, and I’ve been getting increasingly anxious about everything. What happens if it is not working? What other options do I have?
Or what happens if it is working?
How Should I Feel if I Live?
I know this may sound absolutely crazy, but I’m actually nervous about finding out if it really is working – if I’m actually going to beat this tumor, beat cancer, and live a long life. I’m almost afraid of finding out that the chemo is working. You see, my dad died from colon cancer, and then my sister died from colon cancer recently. That makes me stop and ask: why should I deserve to live instead of them? Is it because I had my colon removed early and they didn’t? Is it because I decided to go ahead with chemotherapy and they didn’t? Is it because I made the right choice and they didn’t?
I remember discovering that my dad tried alternative methods and treatments so that he could find out a way to beat this genetic cancer for his children. He knew that we would have to make similar choices and face the same thing he had to face. Christina decided to follow him and try alternative and naturopathic treatments for her cancer. I decided to follow a more traditional route and have my colon removed, and I have continued down that same medical path with chemotherapy. Part of my reasoning to have my colon removed was so that my brother and sisters could see how a medical treatment would work. That’s part of what made going to the ER and finding I had two desmoid tumors so hard. I wanted my choice to work and give my siblings options to deal with this – but instead they now have a choice between a rock and a hard place. It looks like the options are: 1) try the naturopathic route and risk colon cancer, or 2) have your colon removed and risk desmoid tumors. Both options suck, honestly. My brother is making that choice now, and I hate that he has to wrestle with this – and his wife too. I wish my way had been painless and easy, but it hasn’t been. And now I’m doing chemo at 30.
And where is God in all of this? Is he up there just hoping I choose the right treatments so that he can heal me? Did he hope that Christina would choose chemo so that he could heal her? That is a very hard question for me to ask. Why didn’t the naturopathic treatments Christina did stop the cancer from taking her life? What am I to think if chemo heals me? Does that mean that I was right? Do I even want to be right if it means that my sister and dad made the “wrong” decision and died as a result?
It’s hard for me to imagine God is up there just hoping that we make the “right choice” in this position. As if his hands were tied because Christina didn’t try chemo and now he can work since I did. So it scares me that chemo might heal me. Part of me almost doesn’t want that. Part of me will feel guilty if I live – a sort of survivor’s guilt. Part of me wishes that I could have died in my sister’s place. She had a husband and two small children while I am single with no one depending on me – why did she have to die instead of me?
I don’t know. I’m not sure I even want to know anymore…
Following My Sister
When I started blogging through this journey, my little sister said that she wanted me to write a post about what it is like going through chemo so shortly after I watched my sister die from colon cancer. She asked that weeks ago, but I haven’t had the words to write about it. In many ways, because of chemo and being in the hospital, I feel like I haven’t even had the energy or time to fully grieve my sister’s death. I’m not sure that I have fully grieved yet (or perhaps even started grieving), but in anticipation of hearing my results on Thursday I’ve been thinking a lot about Christina. I’ll be flying to Houston to stay at my sister’s house with the husband and two precious children she left behind, to see if I’ll survive the same genetic disease that killed her, although in a different way. It’s hard not to think about Christina.
This year I felt like I grew a lot closer to Christina. Part of it is because of just wanting to be near her while she fought cancer, but part of it was due to many shared experiences. I was there when she had to have surgery for a loop colostomy, and I joked often about how we were “stoma buddies” (a stoma is the opening of the colostomy, which I had briefly when I had my colon removed – people with stomas are awesome, trust me). I had just recently been released from the hospital in June when we found out that she was in the hospital again and went down to Houston to be with her. I felt like I could talk to her about pain medications and anti-nausea pills and walking to wake up your bowels after surgery and all of these new common experiences. I’ve started to notice little things that she did that I now find myself doing because of chemo or my surgery – like taking random deep breaths involuntarily, or slightly nodding my head at times, or having to groan at times when I roll over or move in bed. In many ways, it makes me glad to share these experiences – it is as if I was and am able to share in her suffering, and somehow even maybe help bear it a little.
I wonder if now she is sharing in my suffering, perhaps helping to bear it a little.
I wonder what she would have thought of me choosing to go through chemo.
I wonder what books she would have been reading that we could discuss while I get my infusions.
I wonder which of my new board games she would have enjoyed playing with me.
I wonder if I’ll see her soon, or have to wait some time… and I wonder which of those she’d rather for me – or which I would rather, honestly.
More posts from the Contemplating Chemotherapy series:
- Intro to Chemo (Day 1)
- The New “Normal” (Day 2)
- The Drop-Off (Day 3-7)
- Chemo Jason vs. Normal Jason (Day 8-14)
- “[Bald] and Unashamed” (Day 15-28)
- Thanks(giving) for Chemo?
- Advent, Watching, and Waiting with Chemo
- “To Live is [Chemo], to Die is Gain”