As I type these very words, a machine is pumping what will be my final round of chemo into my veins. This is the last time I will have to endure the fatigue, the nausea and the heinous mouth sores. That is because I have beat cancer.
"Unofficial remission," my oncologist is calling it. What it means is that a CAT scan found no detectible traces of cancer in my body. Once I finish this round of chemo, I will have another CAT and PET scan and can be officially deemed in remission. I'm not completely done, but it's certainly a time for celebration; for me, the nightmare is finally almost over.
What's strange is that, from here, I don't know what's next. I don't know when I'll begin to feel like myself again. I don't know when my hair will start to grow back. And I don't know when I'll be well enough to control my own life, rather than living under the shadow of my disease. And all of this is scary. For months, my life has been a serious of doctor's appointments: the clock counts down until the next blood test, the next injection, the next round of poisonous chemicals. I'm excited about regaining my independence, but a little scared as well, it's like watching your parents drive away from your freshman dorm and realizing that you're now the only person responsible for keeping yourself alive.
For the next three years, I'll continue to see my oncologist every three months. For two after that, it'll be every six months. Then, and only then, can I be officially declared cured; I'll be 30 years old.
I'd hate for anyone to mistake my tone as not being happy about this news, I am. But more than that, I'm fatigued. Cancer really takes it out of you. Months ago I thought I'd want to celebrate remission with a party, now a nap sounds like all I can muster. I can't describe how tired I am: tired of remembering pills and appointments, tired of looking so frail, physically tired. I wish I could be as excited as I'm expected to be.
While it may be difficult for me to express my joy, it is less difficult to express my gratitude. I can't thank my friends and family enough for the support they've given me. And to the nurses and doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering who've treated me with dignity, respect and patience even when I've not done the same, thank you. But I really want to thank those of you reading for the strength you've provided me. By reading the words that I write here, you're telling me that I'm not suffering in a vacuum and cancer can be a lonely, isolating disease.
Thank you, that is the reason I write.
And I will continue to write. My journey is not done yet, but thankfully this chapter is coming to a close.
[Image by Jim Cooke, source photo via Shutterstock]