Those close to me know that I’m not given to excitement. Happy, yes. Content, of course. Blissful, I can do that. But today, I was smiling ear-to-ear after meeting with my oncologist.
As I mentioned in the last post, I came out of surgery with a clean pathology report. But I never really understood what that means. Isn’t that the goal of surgery, to vanquish the cancer? Well, it turns out that rarely happens, at least with pancreatic cancer. My oncologist said fewer than 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients get this kind of news.
This could be big news for my future health. Pancreatic cancer, the beast that it is, usually comes back, and it comes back quickly and hard. It’s been my biggest fear, the worry that has kept my emotions in check, even after a successful surgery.
But the pathology report suggests my prognosis for a cancer-free future is good. My doctor was obviously happy to be able to share the news. She was actually smiling as we talked; I’ve only seen her smile one other time in the eight months we’ve known each other.
Good news begets good news. A clean pathology report means I don’t need to do any more chemo. This was not a given since they often do “clean-up” chemo after surgery. No need in my case.
I’ve been on a chemo break for seven weeks. Today’s news means I get to keep the returning color in my skin that everyone is mentioning, and the wisps of grey hair that are re-emerging on my head, and my eyebrows, and my energy and all those things that normal people get to take for granted. I don’t have to visit that dreaded infusion clinic or have my blood drawn once a week and worry about whether my red blood cell count or neutrophils are high enough.
No more chemo is a huge win.
As a newly minted “cancer survivor,” I now go into “surveillance” mode with CT scans every three months and watchful eyes on my tumor marker to make sure it doesn’t trend upward. Other than that, I may not need to visit 3701 Broadway for a long while.
I went to bed last night bemoaning my nagging post-surgery side effects. Today, I just don’t care. It’s sunny outside today, and it’s even sunnier inside.