Monday, May 29, 2006

May 28, 2006 - On Our Way Rejoicing

In worship today, Robin mentions my PET Scan results as part of the joys and concerns list, just before the pastoral prayer. Some folks already know this news, from reading this blog; others are hearing it for the first time. The congregation interrupts her with spontaneous applause, and there are lots of kind words of congratulations for me at the church door afterwards.

I appreciate the positive sentiments, of course, but there’s a part of me that’s still hesitant about letting down my guard and truly celebrating this good news. Just a couple of days ago, I was worrying about the part of the CT Scan narrative report that said the abdominal mass is unchanged in size since my third chemo treatment. Now, the PET Scan report is picking up no trace of cancer within that mass at all. (That means there’s probably just scar tissue remaining, which would explain why it hasn’t shrunk further.)

I’m reluctant to let loose and really celebrate because I know I’ve still got some struggles ahead of me. By most accounts, cancer fatigue doesn’t dissipate until several months after the last chemo treatment. Then there are the radiation treatments, that Dr. Lerner told us he’ll probably still recommend, even if the chemo results are good. That means I could still feel pretty lousy for a while, despite my negative scans (“negative,” of course, means positive, in the world of cancer treatment).

So when do cancer survivors finally feel free to celebrate? We’ve all heard the folk wisdom that says, “After five years of clean scans you’re cancer-free.” Well, five years is a long time to wait – but, even so, who knows where that five-year figure came from in the first place? In fact, there’s no universal standard that applies to every form of cancer (which, researchers are learning, is more a large family of disorders than a single ailment). Lymphoma, in particular, is pretty slippery. Some of the slow-growing sub-types of lymphoma – while highly treatable – are now considered to be chronic conditions, about which it’s not reasonable to talk of a cure. My “diffuse mixed large- and small-cell” variety is considered to be an aggressive lymphoma, but actually contains some of both types of cells. Does that mean it’s it one of the curable varieties? I have no idea. My impression has been that its “mixed” label refers to the fact that it’s got both slow-moving and aggressive attributes. I suppose that means we just keep watching it carefully, because anything can happen.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” says the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:15). Today the congregation is doing exactly what the Bible tells them to do. I wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise. The only problem is, it feels like the people of God are a bit ahead of me on this. I’m not sure if I’ve made it through to the place of rejoicing myself, just yet. Is that because I’m being appropriately cautious, wanting to assemble all the evidence first? Or is it just that it takes time for good news to sink in?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad for all the hugs, the hearty handshakes, the encouraging comments. It just feels a little early.

All I’m willing to say right now is that I’m rejoicing at a favorable test result. I’m not ready to claim victory, just yet.

No comments: