I will have been in remission for ten years in three days by the time April 15th rolls around. Every April 15th since 2009, I've counted this anniversary. I've always marvelled at anniversaries and the comforting illusion they bring in the form of ritual and memory. We honour a particular day, either joyous or tragic or both, to say, basically, that we have survived a whole year of holding space for something profound, something that had altered our core being. Anniversaries are for moments that fundamentally forged our paths in life.
April 15th (and thereabouts)
2008. Bilateral mastectomy and tram-flap.
2009. (Discovery of first husband's infidelity and ensuing separation.)
2010. Birth/death of son Véo.
2011. (Anticipation of birth of daughter Moxie in two weeks.)
2014. (Grieving father's sudden death from cancer.)
This year I turned 42, and I keep jokingly saying that I will discover the meaning of my life, exposing a bit of my nerd side. I also silently have been looking forward to April 15th this year, as it is to be my 10th "cancerversary," as we call it in our young adult cancer community—the anniversary of our remission. But this year, I cannot celebrate in good faith.
For the last few weeks my husband and I have been tested to our very core. Besides counting anniversaries, I've been waking up every morning with another number: the pain scale. My everyday pain has gone to a new level where my baseline is now 7, which for me means that my entire torso hurts, maybe one or two limbs have aches, but I can move about the house and perhaps do a chore or two, and I'm not crying. If I'm at 8-9, mostly everything hurts and feels like I've been beaten up, stabbed, and set on fire, I'm prone to spontaneous crying, and I mostly can't get out of bed. Beyond that, there is no number. So when I get up, I ask myself, what number am I right now?
Then there was that CT scan I had and the words on the results: "This is suspicious for adenocarcinoma." Lung cancer.
After we shook ourselves out of panic for the first few days, we started planning. If this happens, we will do this. Of course, we want nothing to happen, but if it does, then things will move fast, and this is what we will do. Etc. Etc. No time. Time. Time. Time. It is cruel. And then more panic. Because what if I have lung cancer?
Eventually, we settled down. We got the biopsy date. Which was yesterday. I had the biopsy yesterday at the Cancer Agency at 7:45 am. When we began down the curved sidewalk leading to the sliding doors, I began to hyperventilate. I had a PTSD panic attack just from seeing those doors leading into the Cancer Agency. Anton quickly grabbed my arm and position himself between Moxie and me. We couldn't find anyone to take Moxie to school in the morning, so we had to take her with us. I took some deep breaths, and we passed through the doors.
After I was prepped, the doctor came in and talked to me at length. Beyond the obvious "it's either cancer, or it's not," he told me some shocking news. All along, the two lesions in my right lung, where I had had radiation as part of my breast cancer treatment ten years ago, looked like fibrosis, or scarring from the radiation. Fibrosis is not supposed to grow. But because my lesions grew from the last CT scan, it's very worrisome. He told me that he has seen cases where fibrosis turns into cancer, and it's called fibrosarcoma. It's very rare, and only occurs in 1 in 2 million people. But he said that even if the pathology comes back negative, he recommends removal and resection of the lung because he doesn't want to keep exposing me to radiation and giving me biopsies, which is what will have to be done in my case.
Our hope is that the pathology is negative, we remove the mass, and resection—and that next year, we can celebrate the anniversary when I will have kicked cancer's ass yet again.