"So, how was Houston? What did you learn?" "How is John?" "How are you holding up?"
Today, three weeks since our trip to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, I would answer these questions somewhat differently than when we first returned, having the advantage of hindsight. First, Houston was in better shape as a city than we had anticipated, remaining water viewed more from the air than in the area of the Center. The Center itself as busy, as challenging to navigate as ever. The sight of so many folks in distress as difficult to handle.
But for us, the fact that they could not get a sufficient bone marrow sample added stress and uncertainty as we had traveled there specifically to check the progress of John's disease. What we did learn was that currently there were no clinical trials available to pursue. And that we would have to wait another week for whatever further information could be retrieved from the sample. The best advice we received was to resume monthly chemotherapy treatments.
I would have said on the morning we left Houston that nothing much had changed as a result of the trip. And then, in the airport, waiting for our departure, I heard John tell a friendly stranger that he has an incurable cancer and is not sure he will survive another year. Something I had never heard him acknowledge before, even at times seemed unable to acknowledge. It broke my heart - and it was such a relief.
For, it has been very challenging for me to hold the reality of this prognosis without impacting his optimism, his conviction that he could endure this long enough for a cure to be found. That, at least there might be a clinical trial that would provide a better treatment plan. After all, he beat cancer before. That optimism, however, has been an obstacle to getting our "ducks in a row" should he or before he loses this battle.
Oddly enough, admitting this is a possibility, even a probability has decreased our stress and anxiety. Rather than be depressed, it has brought us both a sense of calm relief and purpose. And subsequently, we have adjusted our expectations and aligned behind a commitment we can manage. We are focusing on three months at a time and a laundry list of to do's that keeps us grounded, energized and in tandem.
So, how am I doing? I told someone recently that I'm learning to ride the waves. "No," she said, "you're learning to stand in a hammock."
And John, well, he recently reminded me that doctors could be wrong.