Any of you who have been hanging out here, even irregularly, over the past nine months knows that last June I was given one damned, big deal, scary medical diagnosis: pancreatic cancer.
So few people can even be treated for it that survival is almost a fantasy. From time to time over my life, I had wondered what it feels like to be handed a death sentence - particularly so when my parents, several years apart, were each given such news.
When my turn arrived, I still didn't know how it feels. Unreal? Like a mistake had been made? Why don't I feel sick? In the ensuing days, there were undercurrents of fear but mostly, my imagination failed me.
Is it, do you suppose, that we are incapable of imagining our own deaths? Or more to the point, imagining not being here in this world any longer? I have no idea about that.
In the months since then, my body has healed from the extensive surgery, I've gotten through the followup chemotherapy and in an announcement as momentous as the original diagnosis, a month ago, the doctors told me I am cancer free. “Go and live your life,” my surgeon said.
And so I have. Happily. But it is not the life I had before.
There is a shadow now that follows me around. I sense it right behind me, leaning up against me. It is not painful, it doesn't get in my way of moving around and doing what I want and it's not there all the time. Just often enough to be a reminder that I am no longer the healthy woman I was once lucky enough to be.
What I have come to see is that the shadow is a tentativeness, an uncertainty. And it didn't help when the oncologist said the other day that she is adding a “tumor marker” to the list of blood tests I regularly undergo.
Don't get me wrong. The shadow, reinforced now with my knowledge of the tumor marker, is not debilitating and I am certainly not sad or distressed or gloomy. But it does have an effect almost daily. I don't mean to make more of this than is there but it is a regular reminder than the cancer might recur - in my pancreas again or somewhere else.
Or it might not. But I don't seem to be able to ignore the possibility and I sure would like to. Isn't there an old saying about not buying trouble?
All of you were so wonderfully supportive during my surgical recovery and following treatment.
As so many of you mentioned about others' comments here, it helped me a lot to know what you have gone through and how you have handled your own serious health issues. Now I wonder if you can help again.
Do you understand what I'm trying to explain about the shadow? Have you experienced it? Did you want to set it aside as much as I do and enjoy the time you have been granted free of care and concern?
If so, how did you make peace with that shadow of uncertainty?