Hardly a quiver in the dirt

23 08 2020

Do I have cancer?

I mean, the surgeon scooped out the tumor and got clean margins, and there’s nothing to indicate a spread, so: do I have cancer?

I’m still a cancer patient: I start radiation this week, and after that’s completed, I’ll be on hormone treatments for five years, but both of those are to lower the risk of recurrence. Sure, the radiation could zap any stray carcinoma cells—presumably that’s one of the ways it reduces risks—but it seems weird for me to say “I have cancer” when. . . maybe I don’t?

Yes, I know: it’s too soon to tell. Oncologists speak the language of “x-year survival rates”, and one month out of surgery is not enough time to know much beyond what they discovered in the surgery itself. I had a tumor, and now a don’t, and while I know that matters, I’m still not wholly sure what that means.

My puzzlement may stem from the fact that the docs caught this early, none of my tests indicate a propensity to metastasis, and, importantly, I won’t be undergoing chemotherapy. I’m old enough that cancer still carries the implications of chemo and hair loss and nausea and “looking like a cancer patient”; well, I am a cancer patient, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me.

I am not in any way complaining about this: like I said, I am VERY GLAD not to need, and thus not to have to endure, chemo. But it makes it [too?] easy for me to think that my cancer is just this summer thing that I’m dealing with, and not much more than that.

And maybe that’s fine, because maybe it isn’t much more than that. Goddess knows I have carried too much HEIGHTENED DRAMATIC MUSIC into too many situations in my life, so maybe my measured response now is. . . appropriate.

Or maybe this is one of those cases in which I’m refusing to listen to the minor chords that (appropriately) accompany cancer.

I don’t know. I don’t even know how much thought to give to this. It matters, yes, but how, and how much? I’ve yet to find out.