According to the Ohio State University’s James Cancer Center, “there is no such thing as a routine cancer.” In my case, I’m amazed by how quickly my life is returning to “normal.”
It’s been almost three months since I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I’ve undergone radiation therapy for my brain tumors and have begun treatment for the seven-centimeter tumor in my lungs. In another month, I’ll have some follow-up scans to see whether or not the treatment has been effective. I’ll probably never be in remission, but hopefully the drugs will stop the tumors from expanding and perhaps even reduce them. Everything seems to indicate that the results next month will be satisfactory.
As shocking as the diagnosis was, I haven’t had it too bad really. Of course, the month that I was on steroids to reduce the swelling in my brain was pretty unpleasant, and I couldn’t drive for awhile. I’ve also gone through some painful operations, but I recovered quickly. The only complaint I really have right now is that I can’t drink alcohol, but that’s a minor inconvenience. I’ve met people whose situations are a lot worse than mine. All I have to do is take a pill at night.
In fact, sometimes I even forget that I have cancer because I can do almost everything I did before my diagnosis. I hope I don’t live to regret these words, but so far things haven’t been too bad, all things considered. I’m not doing chemotherapy and I haven’t had any serious operations, such as brain surgery. When I was diagnosed, I had this image in my mind of what cancer “should” be like. I expected weeks of terrible chemotherapy treatments and a major reduction in my quality of life, if only temporarily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wish that’s how things had gone, but it does feel sometimes like my situation is somehow less authentic and that I don’t really have much to gripe about. At some point in the future, new tumors might form or the drugs might stop working, but right now, the outlook is pretty positive.
Ever since I was diagnosed, I’ve been impatient to get my “old” life back and I’ve already almost got it, or at least something very close to it. I started looking for a job a few weeks ago and already had an interview. I also went on my first date since my last relationship ended about eight months ago. It might be premature and overly optimistic, but it seems like this whole ordeal might be more of a speed-bump rather than a major breakdown. Everything might change next month, but it seems like I’m going to have a relatively normal life again pretty soon. I’m incredibly lucky that the cancer was discovered soon enough that it could still be treated. I’m also very fortunate that there’s a specific drug that targets my mutated cancer cells.
Perhaps it was my own ignorance, but I never thought stage four lung cancer could be so easily contained. For that I’m very grateful. I suppose popular media might have contributed to my perception of treatment cancer as an acute and destructive battle. For many people, that’s unfortunately the truth, but I’m learning that cancer can be a chronic, low-intensity conflict that grinds on for your entire life. I don’t want it to sound like I’m boasting about how easy I have it. I hope my story can give hope to others enduring a similar situation or sheds light on the many different ways individuals can experience cancer.