Three weeks ago Carey went back to her dermatologist for a checkup and found that she had four potential trouble spots on her back and abdomen. Moles that had all the appearance of being cancerous. Her doctor took four biopsies and sent her on her way to heal.
Last Thursday the news came back: one of the four was a problem. It wasn’t cancerous as her other one was (basal cell carcinoma) but it was a definite pre-cancerous mass – a low dysplasia. Wasting no time, Carey scheduled an appointment to have it removed yesterday.
Carey was a trooper as they removed this second mass from her back. I was so proud of her. They laid her down on a table, numbed her up, and then swiftly and surgically removed the mass and a small section of surrounding tissue. It was over in 10 minutes, but its effects will be felt for months.
As I sat there and watched Carey get this mass removed, a deep sadness welled up inside me. All I could think was “stupid cancer” petulantly. This past year has completely changed our lives – both Carey and myself, not to mention the rest of our family.
I feel like I had two lives -pre-cancer Ron and post-cancer Ron.
Pre-cancer Ron was out of shape, diabetic, and blissfully unaware of his own mortality. His biggest issues in life were dealing with work stress and trying to be as good a man/father/lover as he could be. There was no urgency to his life, though. If he failed a friend, he had all the time in the world to make it up to him. If he upset his children, he could resolve it later. If he screwed up at work, he could always get another job. If he made a mistake with his girlfriend he could take his time and fix it.
Pre-cancer Ron had a lot of potential but no real drive. He had time and time meant he could wait to figure it all out.
Post-cancer Ron is different. He is skinny, not yet in shape and still very weak, and lives in a near constant state of anxiety about his health and mortality. His diabetes is gone and his general health is better than it has been in over a decade. He knows he has no time to waste – that every day is a lifetime in and of itself. He sees colors more clearly. Even his taste, as it slowly returns, is more acute than it used to be. Post-cancer Ron doesn’t want to waste a single day on what-ifs. He works out often – he surfs as much as he can. He has committed to being a better friend. A better lover/fiance/husband. He lets his children know every day how much he loves them and tries to make sure they get the most of him that he can give. He takes his job more seriously now – he might have to leave again and he wants people to have favorable impressions of him should that happen.
After all, post-cancer Ron knows that at any day he could find out that his cancer has recurred and that he has to start the battle for his life all over again.
Pre-cancer Ron seems so naive and lazy.
I think Carey feels the same way with her “stupid cancer.” Her cancer is, thankfully, not a danger to her life, but it does change the way she sees herself and her body. She’s more careful with her body, more aware of the risks. We both have a new awareness and appreciation of life – and we’re both anxious about the future.
This has been weighing on me lately. I had my first set of clean scans 3 months ago and I have 3 months until I get my next scans. I’m at that point of a race where fatigue sets in – I am nervous and don’t want to wait another 3 months to find out if any cancer has recurred. I want to know now – the earlier I know the better, right?
But it’s not as simple as that. First, insurance won’t pay for early scans and they are fairly expensive. Second, the scans themselves inject radioactive liquids into my body and bombards me with radioactive rays – that’s a danger in and of itself. You have to be judicious in the application of radiation, I suppose.
Still, it sucks to be here – afraid to hope but trying not to let your life grind to a halt while you pretend like it’s all better.