Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Many Adversaries

Lord, how many adversaries I have! how many there are who rise up against me!
Psalm 3:1

            As a teenager taking a world history class from a born teacher, I was fascinated by the French Revolution and World War II. Now I barely remember the difference between Robespierre and Rommel. I’ve also taken a marked dislike for war, perhaps because of the lingering effects of the Vietnam War on my psyche. So I don’t like using battle imagery as a metaphor for cancer, but sometimes it just works.
            I had almost recovered from the shock to my system that involved major surgery, insertion of a port, four months of chemotherapy, and removal of a port. I decided this strange ovarian cancer was some sort of blip in my lifetime of good health. Now that it was gone, I was going to be back to normal—the old normal, just punctuated by three-month check-ups.
            When they found bladder cancer at the six-month CAT scan, my wishful thinking quickly disappeared. I felt as if my entire body was a cancerous mass, bent on destroying me. My system was clearly toxic beyond my imagination, full of many adversaries. Two kinds of cancer cells had risen up against me! I knew that because of the ovarian cancer, I was automatically more susceptible to breast cancer. (Since then, I’ve discovered there’s also a link to colon cancer.) Clearly, the only thing to do was to put my affairs in order and prepare to die. This has turned out to be wrong for now.
            For some women I know, the issue isn’t multiple cancers but recurrence of cancer, necessitating new drug protocols. (My bladder cancer, which one oncologist called a “nuisance” cancer, has returned multiple times, but hasn’t required chemo. Oddly enough, the drugs I was given for ovarian cancer were also the most potent for my bladder cancer, so I was being treated for both at the same time.)
            The blessing in all this—I’ve learned there is always a blessing—is that I am not alone in the struggle. Not only do I have amazing friends to support me, but I also have a cadre of medical professionals who are scary-smart, funny, and kind. I know that they will be with me throughout this siege, however protracted. Almost four years from the end of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, in the context of a discussion about releasing me from his care in a year or two if all continues to go well, my doctor tells me I will always be his patient.
Cancer is a formidable foe, but I am not helpless. I know from friends who are also under his care that new cancer drugs are regularly being perfected. God has sent me the best caregivers who will walk with me into whatever fray I must go.

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