When we scheduled the appointment for today nobody caught the irony. Today’s oncologist appointment is on the one year anniversary of the trip to the ER which led to finding out I had Stage IV Colon Cancer.
I have been looking forward to this appointment for some time. My colonoscopy came up clean, “normal”. I have slowly been feeling more like myself and gaining strength. I was anxious to hear about my CEA numbers and see if they were showing any kind of changes.
As we walked into the oncologist office it was like I was returning to a community, or family, I had been separated from. The office manager and I talked like I was still making multiple visits a week, even though I had not been there in six weeks. My nurse and I laughed about how often I used to be in the office.
When Dr. Saroha came into the room he was all smiles. This is the most excited and upbeat I have seen him in the year long relationship we have had. My CEA came back at 1.6. Twelve months ago it was over 120. We reviewed my latest scan (this week) and there were no growth in existing lesions and no new lesions. The inflammation in my appendix has gone away and appears to be normal.
We talked about my colonoscopy results. Dr. Saroha provided two possible explanations for the “clean, normal” test result. Option one, my body could have had a “complete response” to the treatment. This would mean that the Cancer was originally in my colon and the chemotherapy has treated it to the point where it is no longer visible. Option two, the Cancer originated somewhere else in the GI trac. There are parts of the GI trac that a colonoscopy does not see and my Cancer could be in those areas. The good news is that my colon is clean and there are no big masses or blockages.
There is a very good chance that there may still be some microscopic cancer cells moving around in my body so we will continue to monitor things. We will do bloodwork every six weeks and scans every three months.
I laughed and said, “It was a year ago this weekend that I went into the hospital. You had a grim outlook regarding my life at that time…has that changed with these results?” He did his normal dance around how you can never predict anything for sure and how it is hard to tell what will happen and every patient is unique. Then he said, “at that time I was hoping you would experience average (two years) success and health with treatment. Today I am confident that you should expect to do well better than the average. When I asked what that meant…well, in true Dr. Saroha fashion he said that was not something he could predict with any clarity. Then he smiled and said, “But, you are a pastor…you know miracles happen.” He looked and Nancy and myself, smiled big, and started talking about my next visit. I really like him.
THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR CAN MAKE
Tonight, Friday night, is prom. Rayann is off having fun, Nancy and I are at home. This night last year I was sitting in my chair having a hard time breathing and wondering if I was having a heart attack or stroke. Not wanting to ruin prom I waited until Rayann got home from the after prom to head off to the ER. (Probably not the smartest move in the world but I did not want to be the guy who ruined prom) Tonight I am sitting in that same chair celebrating all that the oncologist shared with us today.
Over the past few weeks, as this one year anniversary has neared, Nancy and I have found ourselves thinking a lot about the past twelve months. There have been lessons learned and gifts received. We have been overwhelmed by sorrow and joy. In the darkest of moments and the brightest of mornings God has been present, All the Time God is Good…God is Good All the Time.
The next two posts will be our separate reflections on this past year. What have we learned, how have we become more aware of God’s abiding presence.
As I write I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)