Mark those who are honest; observe the upright; for there is a future for the peaceable.
Psalm 37: 39, Book of Common Prayer
It would be presumptuous to call myself honest, upright, or peaceable, though I do try in each area. And I’m past the stage of “claiming” Bible verses for my own ends, although that practice served me well for many years. This morning, a few days after seeing my gynecologic oncologist, I focused on the amazing words there is a future.
Other people have believed that I had a future, and a long one at that, when I found it impossible to believe. Tuesday marked some sort of turning point; my doctor said he expected me to continue to do well. This seems a step up from “cautiously optimistic,” which is what he said six months ago. We are making plans for annual visits rather than visits measured in single-digit months.
I’m elated, of course, but also dazed. Cancer has been so much a part of my life for the past five years that it’s hard to imagine it being merely an annual event. It’s a bit like being finished with chemotherapy and being happy but unsure of what to do next. Without my chemo nurse two of every three weeks, weekly blood draws, anti-nausea meds, and regular confabs with the doctor, who was I?
Cancer was like a cloak wrapped around me, though not a comfortable one. Perhaps a hairshirt would be a better symbol—it was scratchy, it was hot, it had fleas that bit me—except that I didn’t don it willingly and it certainly did nothing to improve my nature. Or the brace I wore for my scoliosis during middle school—that carapace on my torso became so much a part of me that I had to re-learn how to walk and move after the post-op cast was removed. And, oh, yes! I was lighter.
That’s how I feel: lighter, freer. The recurrent-but-not-dangerous bladder cancer apparently is going to be with me always, requiring attention and vigilance. But the scary cancer, the one that could have claimed my life, seems to be resting; I’m afraid to use the words gone or cured. Too many women recur, even eight or ten years later.
No one can be sure of a future. Life is far less predictable than we like to think. But on this sunny summer morning, with a lawnmower buzzing in the neighborhood and a cat asleep in the chair next to mine, I believe that I have one.