Yesterday we saw the oncologist for the first time. He showed us pretty little graphs picturing the percentages of those who survived ten years with each of the different treatment options. He talked about how much each additional treatment reduced the percentage of recurrences. And he added, “No matter what we do, there will still be some who die of this cancer.”
I had thought of cancer as a kind of super-flu, something that might be miserable for awhile, but then would be gone. Radiation would be my super-flu shot, staving off any return. What I forgot was that even flu shots don’t keep everyone from catching the flu. Now I begin to see that cancer has become a permanent part of my life, to be beaten back, but never really left behind. There will always be the possibility, no matter what they do, that it will return.
The doctor offered a test that predicts how likely recurrence is for someone with my type of cancer, as well as estimating how effective chemo would be. Chemo. The surgeons had said I wouldn’t need chemo, so I hadn’t thought much about it. Now it was an option to be considered. “If you wouldn’t even consider chemo, then I won’t order this test,” the oncologist said. I wavered—but requested the test. Because I want to know my odds. “There’s a big gray area in the middle,” he warned, “so the test may not end up being very helpful.” Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Testing, waiting, uncertainty about the future… Wait a minute! Isn’t that the definition of life? Who doesn’t undergo trials and tests, or have to wait when prayers seem unanswered and goals are hard to reach? And I’m certainly not the first person to plan for the future, only to be blindsided by something unexpected. Cancer is just another of life’s many uncertainties. If I can trust God in the uncertainties of everyday, I can trust Him in the uncertainties that cancer brings. Hey, I feel better already.