There are now five days in my life that I will never forget; the one when the most incredible, loving and supportive woman I ever met agreed to marry me, the two when my children came into my life, the one when an ER doctor bluntly told me I had cancer, and yesterday.
The good and the bad in life seem to come to a balance eventually. The disappointments of one year will be forgotten as the joys of love, family and life’s successes prevail in another. The secret to happiness, I think, is to remember those joys, nurture them, celebrate them. Some of the disappointments, like cancer, can drag you under if you let them. Don’t let them.
Although Wendy and I have determinately stayed positive during the past eight months, it has not been easy. There have been plenty of times she felt it necessary to give my unused ass a good swift kick to remind me not to belive the 5% survival rate for my particular cancer. Still, I can say most of the time I still buy green bananas with full confidence that I will be around to eat them.
Our positivity, confidence in my medical team, trust in the drugs and slavishly following instructions have kept me hopeful in the face of the medical studies and statistics that see 95% of people in my position dead in under two years. I can’t say those stats haven’t impacted my world view or haunted my dreams. No matter how positive and hopeful one is determined to remain, there is fear, grief and looming resolution. Wendy and I have our love, our family and compassionate, supportive friends to help push back the darkness.
I don’t think either of us realized the apprehension and dread we carried into Dr. Chung’s office yesterday afternoon. We had been there before when he told us things weren’t looking good. The tumors were not responding to the chemo enough to make surgery a viable option. At that point he said we would try once more after a couple more rounds of chemo. Yesterday was the once more. As we sat there in the tiny exam room, Wendy and I chatted about everything but the elephant in the room. We waited.
Dr. Chung wasted no time, with a big smile, telling us the six tumors on my liver had shrunk from the chemo and he is confident removing half my liver is feasible and advisable. He is booking the surgery for early July.
It took me more than a moment to absorb what he had just said. I think my nerves and emotions were so guarded against bad news that the good had trouble breaking through. I glanced at Wendy and saw the profound relief and joy in her eyes and smile before I realized how incredibly good the news was. I knew then that she had been just as worried as I was. I also knew we were both entering a new phase of hope and promise.
According to Dr. Chung, who has done many of these exact operations, there is a one in five chance of complete success. This is the first time a doctor has prognosticated better than the 5% survival. I take it “complete success” means cured, cancer free, a healthy, long life! He never actually said that, but what else could those two wonderful words mean? I have officially gone from the 5% chance of survival column to the 20% chance of a fucking cure!
Now I’m going to disappoint you with a lack of details. Anyone who knows Wendy and me will be surprised that we walked out of there with a consent form for the surgical procedure having asked no questions at all. Not one. Most of my doctors are either impressed or irritated buy our flood of questions and demands for complete information. Not this time. I think we were both more than a little stunned by the release of the weight of worry we were each secretly carrying.
So I can’t tell you what the other four fifths of the possible outcomes look like. I presume they lie on a continuum between nearly complete success and that tiny chance of not leaving the operating room alive. Whatever it means, I am going to be sticking around for a long time to make the Canadian Bucket List Foundation a success.
Maybe I should plant a banana tree.
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