The Aftermath

What does one do while waiting? Sitting in the aftermath of a fight not yet won, not yet lost. The soldiers battle weary and wary. Squatting in the trenches, unsure of whether to rise and risk walking through the fields, or stay still and quiet between walls of protection.

It’s been 18 days since we found out Nige’s cancer is in remission, and to be honest, it feels a bit strange to be “normal”! It’s so weird going from a daily adrenaline burst of survival to just kind of humming and trundling along like “everybody else”. But what else can we do? We can’t keep ourselves and loved ones suspended in the strange bubble of cancer-land forever. Can we? And why would we want to? Well actually, funnily enough, some things are better in cancer-land:

We lived in the moment; We made time for loved ones; We didn’t bother with petty arguments (mostly ;)); We appreciated and were grateful for everything; We tried to live an extraordinary life; We took care of ourselves.

It’s so simple just to slide dreamily back down into the well worn rut of “old ways”. Living well isn’t easy, doesn’t come naturally, and is downright exhausting at times. Travelling extra miles to find organic food, spending hours juicing and cooking food from scratch. Endlessly researching ways to stay alive. Meditating, yoga breathing, rebounding, soul-searching. It’s probably not surprising that Nige and I feel like a break from all this healthy living! (Especially the wheatgrass shots eh Nige ;)).

It’s a bit wrong though isn’t it, why is it so difficult to live in a way that preserves both your body and your mind? Are we not endlessly instructed by the media the “right way” to live, as simultaneously more and more barriers spring up – work, money, supermarkets, social media, “the norm”? The lives we are forced (?) to lead it would seem aren’t geared towards a nurturing, peaceful, wholesome existence.

Maybe deep down that’s not really what we all want at all. Maybe a life that is easy and kind is as undesirable as the opposite. We need little dramas and upsets to keep us “alive” and stimulated. Cancer is going a bit far, I can do without that kind of stimulation on a regular basis. Bugger the way it takes magnificent people and sucks them away from us.

But we need the terrible to appreciate the mundane.

That much is true. No-one who has lost someone to cancer will find peace in that statement, there is no sense of justice in it. But it is true.

But how quickly we forget our cravings for the boredom of everyday troubles. How easy to sigh and give in to old patterns of thoughts and actions, no matter how negative.

We’re supposed to try and reverse negative thought patterns. I can see why that’s common sense. The trouble is, fighting against things can be a teensy bit tiring and downright boring after a while. Sometimes, you need to give in. Not to the negativity, but to the constant pressure on yourself to struggle against it and everything else that’s not running a perfect course through your life.

Now I’m at the ripe old age of 41, I’ve realised my life up is made up of cycles and patterns, but I always do okay in the end. I used to always strive to regain equilibrium, quite often by beating myself up about what I should or shouldn’t be doing, trying to force events and encounters to happen the “right way”. I can tell you it’s a bit like combining a marathon, self-flagellation and after-school detention living like that – i.e. not fun and/or pleasant for you or anyone in close vicinity! Now I’m mostly at peace in the knowledge that sometimes I’ll work hard, sometimes I won’t, sometimes I’ll exercise, eat well, be nice, be spiritual, and other times I won’t. I am trying to learn to trust that I’ll do what needs to be done when the right time comes. But sometimes I can think like this, sometimes I can’t – maddeningly it’s all part of it!!

So I guess the aftermath of cancer, the waiting, the slipping into old patterns, is just another “phase”, another chapter in the Ammundsen family story book. It’s no bible but it’s not the book of the damned either.

We must go into the dark to once more appreciate the light. As do the seasons of the year, a day on earth, and patterns of self and growth. All change, all the same, repeating in endless undulating waves that grow and retract along the way….frequency shifts, black holes, bright stars, turning and twisting and convoluted just like the universe around us.

How else can we be?

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What does “Remission” mean?

On Thursday we received some incredible news – Nige’s cancer is officially in remission. Apparently that’s a really good thing. Apparently Nige could go without the cancer growing for another 3, 6, 9, 12 months if he’s lucky. He has bought himself some more of that most precious commodity – time.

That we were surprised to hear these words uttered by Nige’s doctor is exactly the truth. We had received a quick text on the Tuesday:

Doc:
Scan better
Less fluid around lung and heart
Liver clear, bones healing
Lesions still in lung much same compared to Previous scan
Cheers
Me:
Great. What about brain?
Doc:
Sorry
Was normal

We were disappointed. Lesions in the lung the same? After 3 more rounds of chemo nothing had happened?! Well not quite, the liver and brain were clear, which was definitely a very good thing, as those tumours were a shaky and horrid fear. Tumours that could have sent Nige exactly where we didn’t want him to go. Less fluid around the heart and lung, yes also good. But why were the lung lesions unchanged? Emotions were an uneasy mix of relief and disappointment, joy at what had improved, and a sort of sad weariness at what hadn’t.

We had been told not to expect a lot more shrinkage after the last 3 rounds of chemo, but could only focus on the fact that those stubborn lung lesions had not budged a millimetre. You see if Nige’s cancer shows growth within 3 months, it means that his cancer has resisted the chemo, and that he won’t be able to use the same one again. And this one had been his best hope, and the mildest of all the treatments so far. A dark and twisted road stretched forth in our minds, a possible reality of unknowns and uncertainties even greater than before. After we had fought so hard. After Nige had endured so much.

It was a luke-warm feeling, seated in the waiting room with other haunted souls, lining up in preparation to hear Nige’s and all our fates.

The doctor began to talk through the scan results, describing what we already knew in greater detail. But the way he told the story sounded much brighter than our dreary tale. He was pleased. He said in his world this was remission. He said there was about an 80% chance his cancer wouldn’t come back for another 6 months or so in which case we could use the same chemo again to push the cancer back. He said Nige’s biggest tumour was only a couple of cms and that what remained could possibly be in-active – i.e just scaffolding left behind by busy cancer labourers, long gone home to scratch their buts, hoist up their jeans, and sit down on the couch for a cold one. He said Nige could have more life.

The doctor knew a couple of people who had lived for YEARS like this. There was only a tiny chance Nige could be so lucky, but there was still a chance. And with all of the advancements being made, who knows what awaits around the corner of what Nige can now call his future. He just has to try and stay healthy for as long as possible, and with his dream team of friends and family surrounding him with all the love he deserves, how can we fail?