Over the moon, cancer


Thank God It's Friday


ON MONDAY , a CT-scan showed I am cancer-free.

To say I’m over the moon is an understatement along the lines of: “Jesus Christ was a Jewish carpenter.”

Monday's news came nine months after my diagnosis with oesophageal adenocarcinoma, and six months after the surgery that removed the tumour from the end of my gullet.

And, for most of those nine months, my major worry has been that, when the treatment was done (my final chemotherapy was on May 3), that it would come back.

I think I can relax a bit now.

The thing about cancer is, you enter it in shock because, until your doctor tells you that you have it, it never crosses your mind that you might. Cancer happens to someone else, never to you. No one ever greets their diagnosis by slapping their hands together and declaring, “I had a feeling it was adenocarcinoma!”

And from the moment of diagnosis, you worry that you will die from it. That’s cancer’s nature. And mine.

Since this dread trip started, I’ve watched several fellow riders get the devastating news that, after their successful surgery and despite their soaking up radiation and chemotherapy like a tourist sunbathing on a Caribbean beach, their cancer has come back. As it very often does.

Where I had shrinkage of my tumour significant enough for my surgeons to be confident they had removed all cancerous growth from my body, friends have had their tumours grow in chemotherapy.

Where nothing has lit up anywhere for me in four CT and PET scans, I’ve watched friends recoil in horror as the cancer they hoped was gone forever has not just come back, but metastasised, has jumped from one part of the body, say the lungs, to another totally unconnected part, like the spine.

No matter how positive I tried to remain – because I understood from the start that the battle against cancer is fought foremost in the mind and heart – I could not be anything vaguely approaching sure that I would test negative this week. Only a fool sayeth in his heart that there is no cancer. Indeed, my fear was quite the opposite.

If Monday’s test had lit up portions of my stomach, throat, lungs, liver, anywhere at all…I’d have had to deal with it, as so many others have. And I would not have been surprised. Because, as much as I stayed positive, I didn’t abandon reality.

Metastasis could have happened to me in the same way it happened to so many others and I would have been just as shook up as I was by my diagnosis in the first place.

But, instead of being entirely crushed on Monday, I’ve been set free.

I’m not out of the woods for good. And I never will be. While I live, like almost everyone who’s had cancer, I live with the chance of its return.

But the unspeakable fear that it might have returned to finish the job of killing me quickly is now gone. If cancer does do me in, it will have to be patient.

If the first cut is the deepest, the first remission is the hardest to win.

But I’m here. Against the odds, perhaps, 55lbs lighter for sure than I was when I started, more scarecrow than man, maybe…but I’m here.

And, no matter how bad this life gets (and I apprehend more than most, at least in the last ten months, that it can get pretty firetrucking bad), it beats the only certain alternative: better to be aware of even miserable life conditions than to have no life at all.

But how good it is to be, not just alive and well, but alive and well enough to eat cold watermelon and hot pizza.

Since Monday, I’ve been more or less high as a kite. And getting higher all the time.

Of course, life will bring me back down and may already have done. One morning at any public service office or private business place can puncture anyone’s bubble. And even if all else goes well, I may, in my elation, step out of a car and into an oncoming truck. Life is full of uncertainties.

But since Monday, one huge doubt has been removed. I will not die of cancer. Not this time around.

And, to my religious friends who have asked, I would say a heartfelt public thanks to God for sparing my life.

If He hadn’t given me the cancer in the first place.

BC Pires is a cancer survivor


"Over the moon, cancer"

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