Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One year later

One year ago today, Mike came home from a doctor’s appointment and handed me a piece of paper with the words "carcinoma of unknown primary."

We’d thought he had lymphoma that could be treated with radiation. But the surgical biopsy he’d had the week before indicated something much more sinister.

I couldn’t comprehend what he was telling me. If it said "unknown," were they sure it was even cancer? Since it’s "unknown," then it couldn’t be that serious, right?

So I did what the journalist in me does in these situations: I googled it. This is what popped up: "The prognosis for patients with CUP is poor. As a group, the median survival is approximately 3 to 4 months."

My heart literally stopped beating. When I think back about that moment, I can almost feel the same concrete block on my chest. Mike and I just stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity. It’s an understatement to call that the lowest point in what quickly became the roller coaster of our lives.

Another low point: sitting alone in the hospital waiting room while Mike was having surgery the next week to biopsy a suspicious area in his chest. The doctor came out to tell me yes, it was more cancer, and it was very serious and all he could tell me to do was pray.

Shortly after, we went to the Moffitt Cancer Center where the doctors said Mike stood a good chance of fighting this thing. We were up.

Then the chemo started, and Mike’s face and head broke out in a rash and his hair started coming out in clumps and then we found out not only wasn’t it working, but the cancer had gotten worse... Down down down.

A new drug promised new hope. Up. The insurance company rejected it. Down.

We learned about Dr. Greco and we got in to see him. Our co-workers overwhelmed us with their generosity in funding our trip there. We got word the tumors were shrinking ... Up up up.

Some days
I am so angry that this is happening to us. I think, we just got married, we have this beautiful perfect baby. Where is our happily ever after, damn it? Mike is such a good, kind and funny person. This should not be happening to him.

It sickens me that at 33, I have to consider being a widow and how I will raise my daughter alone and how I will even keep a roof over her head let alone give her the kind of life Mike and I want for her.

It scares me to the core that there might come a day when he's too sick to get out of bed, or God forbid, in pain. But the worst thing, the very worst thing, is that Julia might not know her dada.

Other days, I am at peace with what is happening. I am confident that we will all be OK. Mike is strong, he can fight this. If you saw him, you wouldn't even know he was sick. My heart overflows with how much love and support we have from our family and friends.

After spending a day in the chemo room with some really sick people, I feel incredibly blessed. Things could be so much worse, I tell myself.
I'm not a religious fanatic but I do believe and I take comfort in knowing there is a plan for all of us. I start my day with the prayer of St. Therese: May you find peace within. May you trust in God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

I'm not sure if anything profound has come out of our year of madness. I'm not even sure it's changed us -- we still laugh, we still fight, we still go to work and raise our daughter. But one thing I have learned is to focus on the small moments in life. There is so much joy there -- eavesdropping on Mike reading Cinderella to Julia, jumping into the pool on a hot day, the three of us holding hands on the beach, Sunday dinners.

That's probably a decent mindset, cancer or not.
It does no good to wander down the dark paths. I frankly don't have time. I try not to think too far ahead. I think about right now, and right now, one year later, things are good. At least I have this day.

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