Maintaining hope against the odds

So we went to meet with my husband’s new oncologist today. I asked a lot of tough questions, which I could tell the doctor wasn’t used to being asked. Apparently, the doctor was a bit taken aback by my questions because at one point, he asked me, “Where did you say you work again?” I got a bit of glee from that. I knew that I knew my shit.

On the downside, he got real with us about odds. And the bad news is that my husband’s odds are pretty damn bad, even with the chemo. Like only a 10 percent chance he’ll still be here in five years bad.

Sobering. It kinda knocks the breath out of me. It’s hard to continue from there.

But it also let me know what’s at stake and the doctor made a strong case for continuing chemo. He’s going to let my husband go back on the form of chemo that worked so well for him before. The one he reacted to so badly was actually the same drug, only in pill form instead of an infusion. He’s just going back to the infusions again in a couple weeks to allow his body to recover from the effects of the pills.

If he has a recurrence, the second med is likely to be less effective than the first, the third even less likely, and so on. They’d be more likely to put him on a clinical trial instead. I know from when my Aunt Sandy went through melanoma, she was on a clinical trial at the end and it was pretty much a last-ditch effort that didn’t work.

Though I also know that sometimes clinical trials work really well and that’s how new drugs come to market, I don’t want my husband to be a guinea pig in the name of medical advancement. And seeing how much he’s suffered on the pill format of the first drug makes me really scared to imagine him on another unknown drug. We could lose everything.

The future is uncertain—my future is uncertain—so I can’t dwell on worst-case scenarios or I’ll fall apart. The potential “what-ifs” aren’t so hypothetical anymore. I wonder if he was right when he thought I was naive to assume I’d be okay no matter what. If he has no life insurance because he has to stop working, my future is a lot more precarious.

I always wondered why they coded him as stage IV since he didn’t have metastases to the liver or lungs, the usual when you have colon cancer. And today we finally found out that the determining factor was that a rogue cancerous lymph node was found near the aorta of his heart. Now I understand why the surgeon who performed his surgery gave me a hug and teared up, and why he couldn’t get it all.

That rogue cell can either be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. It’s either good because it’s so atypical, making him an outlier and it’s therefore possibly more beatable, or bad because it suggests the cancer is in his lymphatic system where it could spread anywhere.

So instead I’m choosing to believe in a miracle. I’m choosing to focus on the fact that he reached “no evidence of disease” status on the first round of chemo as a sign of hope. That feels like he’s already passed one hurdle. He responded pretty well to the first type of chemo and can continue it. That’s also good.

Somebody has to be that 1 in 10 who makes it and I believe it can be him.

I have to have hope so that I can keep going. I’m picking up more of the things he used to do and so far it’s not affecting me too badly. I hope that continues. I can be strong when I need to and I just hope my MS doesn’t flare up as a result.

Time is seeming ever more precious now. I’m glad we got the tickets to “Hamilton.” I have to find a way to get him to San Antonio in the fall because he’s always wanted to go there with me. We’ll even probably stay in the creepy rumored-to-be-haunted hotel where he wants to stay, even though that’s totally not my kind of thing.

Somehow, talking to the doctor made me really understand the gravity of the situation, even though I already knew the statistics. I have no choice but to believe in hope. We’ve gotten a lot of miracles in our lives so far and I’m choosing to believe this will be another. Because not to believe in that means I’d be giving up and I’m not ready to do that. It’s time for me to find my strength and stay positive until there’s a reason for me not to be.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply to Holly Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s