Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Moving On

When I was first diagnosed with cancer (and learned that it had spread to bones and liver) the primary thing I wanted to know was how much time I had left. Six months? A year? 10 years? My oncologist couldn't tell me, but rather gave me a variety of scenarios. The best case was that I could keep the cancer at bay for many years, decades even. The worst case was that it would get the better of me within a year.

The internet is a dangerous place to be when you have Stage IV cancer. I have learned to be very careful about statistics and probabilities, to check their sources and the data that feeds them. On a bad day I could easily convince myself that I had better get my affairs in order quickly.

Nearly three months have passed now since my diagnosis, and I no longer fear the general statistics. I am younger and stronger than most of the "numbers", and I am blessed to have access to an amazing super drug that just may extend my life beyond anyone's expectations. Moreover, I am completely at peace with this disease and am really, truly OK with whatever the outcome turns out to be. Naturally, I hope for (and will fight like crazy to obtain) enough years to see my children's children. But if that is not in the cards, so be it. Being settled about any possible outcome is absolutely vital to my peace of mind.

That being said, as time goes by, I am finding that I am thinking more and more about things NOT having to do with my illness. Large portions of the day pass now where I forget I even have cancer, so consumed am I with things I used to be concerned with: budgeting for the upcoming year, updating scout patches, paying taxes, planning for the kids' ever-present school projects, general running of the household. As the days pass, I am spending less and less time pondering my health, how well I may be responding to the drug and what is coming next for me.

What I am trying to say is that I am moving on with my life. After being suspended in a state of confusion and concern for months, I am slowly coming out of this daze and resuming life as usual. I will be on medication indefinitely, and I will have whole body scans every few months for the foreseeable future. But these things are now not extraordinary to me...rather, they are becoming part of my new normal. This means I can focus less on them and see them as just another part of my everyday existence, like washing the dishes or making the beds.

Yet, even as life returns to normal, I can't help but hope that the parts of me that have been improved by this experience will stay as they are. My outlook is healthier, my faith stronger, my eyes opened, and I don't want these things to return to how they were before. I hope they stay as souvenirs of these often difficult months now behind me.

I know this is a roller coaster, and that there is a lot of track ahead of me. Some days I will have big climbs and some days I will have big dips. Perhaps next week I will have a euphoric day when my scan results come in. Another day someone may tell me that things are not progressing as we would like. Regardless, I have come to understand that although I may someday die of this disease, it is not likely to be right away and I have lots and lots to do before that happens.

The moral of this story? Live and love as though you only have six months left, but plan prudently for many decades. This is exactly what I intend to do.


Sarah McCormick said...

Dear Suzanne,
I will take your advice and do just that. I find myself getting stuck feeling frustrated with my situation and I have no control over it. Thank you for the meaningful message. I needed it!
Thank you for being in my life.
Love, Sarah McCormick

Jen Savard said...

How did I get so very lucky to be blessed with a friend like you?!

Emily Aoun said...

Ah Suzanne, you truly are an amazing woman!! Before your journey started, I was just living each day like it was another day out of the movie "Ground Hog Day." I was letting life pass me by. Then, when I saw Bella burst out in tears and yell for you while you went to the altar to receive your blessing, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Here is a little girl that is so attached to her mommy...what is going to happen if God takes her mommy too soon? I couldn't even think of that again. So, as I prayed for your miracle, I made sure I didn't let any small detail in my life go unnoticed. There are more "I love you's" and more kisses in our house because of you...Thank You! As we witness a miracle in progress, please know how special your are. You have touched so many lives...taught us so many lessons. Here is to "moving on" and many, many more years of "life as usual". (After all, Julia and Ethan will need our help babysitting their kids. ;) JK Jay!)

anna lisa said...

Dear Suzanne,

I just stole away from my laundry pile to "have coffee" with you...(Please stay asleep Charlotte!) What good news Suzanne!!!! I can just picture the restrained giddy! And what inspired sentiments about all of it. How true it is that our heaven begins here on this earth, if we will just let it...My refugee status here in SB was beginning to tempt me to something worse! I've had to remind myself: "It's not Haiti!!" The good news is that it looks like we are about to move as someone FINALLY accepted our offer. So maybe soon we'll sort of be neighbors :)!
I'll keep you posted.
Could you please tell me how on earth Natalie lets you do mission projects and the like? Throwing all that in with cancer is making me feel like a bit of a loser...Ah, for that extra pair of hands! I'm going to miss the extra help here, but am impatient for the next chapter in L.A. See you soon?
Love and prayers,
Anna Lisa

Anonymous said...

Suzanne -
In the most unfortunate of ways I have learned that life is about adopting to new norms - whether we like the new norm or not. In my case, I hate it. But we keep moving through it and adopting to it no matter how much we still yearn for the old norm.

Your strength in moving on I hope rubs off on me. How selfish of me, but it shows what an inspiration you are to me and no doubt many others around you.

Thank you for being you.

Daria said...

I agree live as tho you have six months to live ... all the best to you.r

Anonymous said...

Hey Suzanne, Have not seen you for awhile, but you have been in my prayers from the very first day I found out about your cancer. I have asked my mighty pray warriors to lift you up in their prayers daily. Their prayers have done mighty things for me. You are an amazing wife and mother!!!! Hope I will get to church soon and see you Love Terry Miscione

Anonymous said...

You're Awesome! L

Dawn Farias said...

Thank you for sharing these lessons with us.