Mixed gladness and sorrow
The post-chemo CT scan was not what we had hoped for, yet it was not a total disappointment. The same three small tumors that were visible after my surgery in March are still there; but the good news is that they have shrunk by 50%. The largest is just over half an inch across; the two smaller ones are the size of peas. And yet, the bad news is that they are still there, because it means they are probably still viable and active rather than dried-up shells. And because the tumors are still there, it suggests that my cancer is largely resistant to the drugs.
My particular kind of cancer is extremely rare and represents less than two percent of all ovarian cancers. In general, it’s fast-growing, and there’s very little research being done because so few women fall ill with it. Its acronym, Mixed Mullerian Tumor or MMT, is usually prefaced by another “m” word: “malignant.” (It’s also called ovarian carcinosarcoma.) I first noticed symptoms in early January and was fading fast by March, when they surgically removed two large masses. I felt much better immediately, and sailed through the chemo with very few side effects while continuing to work at my job.
Whenever these three small tumors decide to reactivate, I will probably only have a couple of months left before I start to die for the second time. My oncologist at the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis told me that it would make little difference if we were to take the tumors out now, as opposed to waiting for symptoms to return. The fact that there is so little research being done is frustrating, because there are few persons or institutions capable of providing a second opinion. From what I can tell from my Internet research, there is virtually nothing I can do to extend my life. My oncologist advised me to go forth and seize the day (that is, the days that still remain). My own online searches for MMT cancer invariably turn up my own blogs on the subject. (Thanks, Google.)
There is a choice to be made here. Do I want to struggle like mad to extend my own life by any means possible, spending money traveling to distant clinics to speak with experts, even though most likely I will fail in the end, filled with frustration, rage and panic? Or do I continue my quiet acceptance of my fate as a mortal being? After all, I’ve come to a good place in my life, a place where I have achieved all of my major hopes and ambitions. And all of us have known from childhood that we must die at the end. Even if it were feasible, I would have no interest in having my consciousness downloaded into a computer chip. I would not want consciousness under those limited conditions: an existence in which I could never walk again in the woods, inhaling the aroma of pine trees while birds sing.
For now, I embrace the facts of life — and death. This may change if I become more ill down the road, but for now I intend to accept my lot. After all, an important part of growing up is to learn to gracefully accept to play whatever cards we are dealt, instead of making a scene and complaining. I plan to relax with my family and friends, and yesterday I gave notice at my job, effective the end of November. I have projects I would like to complete, and travels to make. Life is a beautiful, complex, challenging, wonderful thing, and I wish to enjoy it fully in the time that remains.