The Time in Between
It was really easy to forget that I have cancer.
Everything had just been so normal. After just a couple of days of not ingesting arsenic, I felt completely revived, and this last month off from chemo was the best I’ve felt since October. Full of energy, eating well, allowed to mingle in public without fear because my white blood cell count rebounded.
The bone marrow biopsy had left its mark though. Even though it was a simple and quick procedure with barely any initial irritation to whine about, the recovery was something else. I slept awkwardly, limped for nearly a week, and shifted all my weight to my left leg such that it was sore from overuse.
But I hardly had cause to complain. By the end of the month my walks were getting longer and longer and even progressed to some light hiking. I was emboldened by the disappearance of brain fog and all the other ugly things that chemo had brought on the month before. I had the attention span to even read a whole book! (Which is really good, as I have run out of MasterChef seasons to watch).
I went to actual restaurants for the first time since October. Pete and I even took two road trips: one to Medicine Hat to see my Dad and then a few days later we were off to the mountains. Our friends at the Alberta tourism board treated us to a dreamy stay at Mount Engadine Lodge. They even turned on the blue skies and moderate temperatures for us. We walked around it until I exhausted myself, ate well, saw friends, and also spent a couple of days in Canmore and Banff just because. The mountains give me strength, they always have, and I relished every moment of it.
I did not speak the L word or the C word very often. I didn’t feel it, I didn’t want to think about it, and I didn’t have to. My time off was my time off, from all of it.
But then the results of my bone marrow biopsy started to trickle in. I waltzed into my doctor’s office last week with nary a concern – the initial scan showed I was clean, and I expected the deeper look at the molecular level to say the same. By now, according to protocol and 90% of patients who have taken this treatment before me, my active cancer cell count should have been zero.
One test showed that it wasn’t, and that was not the news I was expecting. The doctor talked about my possible resistance to arsenic and that the next step could potentially be a bone marrow transplant. Such a procedure is risky, requires a lot of hospital time, and has a year-long recovery period.
“I’m sorry to alarm you,” he said. We had one more test result to wait for so nothing was certain. But I was reeling.
My last week of time off was suddenly not that. Pete and I had planned to head to Edmonton to visit family but I couldn’t stop crying or bring myself to face anyone. I went from agony to acceptance to disbelief. There was a dramatic decrease in the cancer cell count (from 85% to 0.5%) – how could it not be working? How could I be one of the very few people that is actually resistant?
Turns out, I wasn’t. The first test was a false positive. A deeper look – ran twice just to make sure – showed that the asshole cells had been wiped out. The doctor called on Friday to tell me that I was officially in complete molecular remission.
This is it, guys. I’VE WON. I don’t think I have to expand here as you may be able to imagine the celebration that ensued. (Or maybe not? I will only say that it included a lot of ugly crying, gatherings of friends and family, a limo ride, shooters, champagne, purse juice, and a surprising absence of a hangover that I will chock up to the fact that my body is now used to much harsher toxins.)
The rate of relapse for this type of cancer is very low. This is, as we hoped from the beginning, going to be a painful but relatively short blip in my journey. It has not been without it’s extremely terrifying moments and will change our lives in other ways, but this end result is the absolute best we could have hoped for.
It’s not quite over yet. I started chemo again on Monday and will continue every weekday until April 7th. I expect the same brain fog, fatigue, and other side effects as the previous round. But this one will be different for one big reason: it will be my last.
However, I will still be bound by my cancer. For the next two years (at least), I will need to have tests done every month and see the doctor every couple. I will be able to travel, but Pete and I clearly cannot just pick up the lifestyle that we used to have. Everything changes.
How? Nothing is entirely certain just yet as we are still just grappling with it all. After eight years of carefree travel, this will be an adjustment. Many people who travel for as long as we have most often choose to slow down after a certain point, but for us, this certainly won’t be by choice. It will be a necessity.
Hence the grappling. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t have to be worse, just different. I hope to believe it soon enough.
Thrilled and thankful you received such wonderful news. All the more wonderful, after the first misread.So happy for you both. Wherever the future takes you, I know you both will make it a great adventure.
Dalene I am so happy for you!
I, too, am a cancer survivor having battled a very rare Hydatidiform mole almost 30 years ago but it took 2 years out of my life with chemo and tests.
You have been through a lot. And me too, but when I realized I was through to the other side I was grateful for the illness that caused me to change gears and return to my first chosen career path that had brought me so much joy and passion. (Theatre and Acting) We have to make the most of every single day!
I credit my illness with motivating me to go back to university in my late 40’s and pursue a career in film and TV as a Producer and Director, which had been a dream.
You are already in the thick of pursuing dreams with your life ‘on the road’ as a journalist – and this bump in the road, will likely be just a ‘big bump’ to the next destination.
Keep up the good work —
love and hugs,
Dalene, that is great news! Following your blog for the last few months we really appreciate the honest, human connection you make. The C bomb is a nasty mofo and having had family members heavily impacted, we can’t think of how scary and hard it has been. Sure, the house sitting life may need to take a holiday in favor of shorter getaways, but at least you’ll be back out there soon enough, enjoying all those experiences and we bet you’ll appreciate them even more.
Good luck to you both,
Bernie and Jess
Bernie & Jess recently posted..Casa Bacardi, Puerto Rico
I am SO SO incredibly happy for you! I know it’s not quite over yet, but ALMOST. I have faith that you guys will figure out a way to adjust your travel lifestyle to have at least some of what you had B.C. I wonder if you could get tested in other places and just come back to your doctor for the every other month visits. Or come up with some really awesome Canadian travel plan, probably still getting the monthly tests done in other locations, but popping back to your doctor every two months. You’ll figure something out. And hopefully, if you still want it, in 2 years you’ll have the all-clear to go back to traveling around the world as you wish. Everything’s easy after arsenic, right? 🙂 I’m sooooo happy for you!!!
This is SO incredibly exciting!! And I couldn’t be happier for you both. Such great news!!
And yeah, the travel will be different, but only briefly (in the grand scheme of things).
So get back out there and do your thing – we’ll all be applauding every step, every moment, from the sidelines.
I am so, so happy for you both that, in the end, you got the news we all wanted for you. I’m sorry you had to go through that initial shock of the false positive though. Speaking as someone whose travelling life changed drastically through no fault of my own, you will adjust and you will find a way to make this new life yours. I know it’s not where you saw yourselves, but I also know you both well enough to know you will not only roll with this but make it into something wonderful and positive. I hope we get to see you guys on the road this year and I am excited for the great things to come for you. xx
Alison recently posted..Top Budget Things to do in Slovenia With Kids
Great to read that you are feeling better. Good luck with the next round. You got this!
Cam recently posted..Discovering Canada’s Hidden Gems
Thank goodness!! So glad to hear you are on the mend, albeit slowly. Just think in time for the travel “season”, if there is such. Anyway, bravo and think about shorter trips for awhile. There is always an audience….stay well ?
Congratulations on fighting and beating it!! I’m really happy for you, Pete and your families!
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WELL DONE !!! How good news to read. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best for the future – I am sure that you will find a way in the global world with your open minded perspective.You are my hero – and you have been a huge inspiration for me when I started my journey with my family. 14 months of travel – and now we are settling in Melbourne. Thanks for your inspiration.
Hurray! So pleased for you.
Kirstie recently posted..Month in Review: February 2017
Such wonderful news!! I’m so happy to read this, I have been checking in on your blog to see how you are progressing. I don’t usually post, but I really wanted to wish you all the best . Enjoy your ‘different’ – you two will no doubt know how to make it wonderful x
Leigh recently posted..Visiting Chicago’s Chinatown
Congratulations on the wonderful news!
Good news and so happy you are feeling better. Fight the good fight. Have enjoyed a lot of your stand in blogs.
Wanda Gallimore recently posted..Notes and quotes from “An Italian Journey” and other recent reads
Congratulations Dalene, on beating the cancer. You are a brave girl. Would love to hear how it felt for Pete during the last 6 months.
Shirley Hollick recently posted..5 Jaw-Droppingly Stunning Islands of Palawan, Philippines
I’m so happy to read all this positive news and am counting down the days till April 7 for you! Love you both. Happy to see you making the most of the horrible past few months.
Best thing I’ve read in months. Very happy for you.