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.