How are you with the unknown? Me… Not so good. I mean, I love wonder and awe, and am willing to sublimely surrender to the unknowable, to Mystery… But, when it comes to the knowable – I want to know.
This, as promised, is an update on my current medical issue. My last post asked the question, “What is it?” Are the uterine fibroids now rapidly growing in my body cancerous? I went to a GYN oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital two days ago and he said that there is no way to tell for sure. So, I still don’t know.
Scans, MRIs, biopsies – none are definitive in diagnosis and, in his opinion, none are worth the effort for me. As he explained, this particular kind of cancer would be very rare, so it is unlikely that the fibroids are malignant. Because I have been taking a shot called Lupron for the last two months, there was an upsurge in estrogen levels in my body and, so, this could have caused the fibroids to grow more rapidly. By continuing with the Lupron shots (I received my third one in that doctor’s office, as my gynecologist told me to bring it with me) the reasonable hope is that the fibroids will stop growing and maybe even shrink by about 25 percent.
That’s good news. But…
I know that the rarity of this being cancer should be reassuring to me. But, it’s not. As I told the doctor, I’m rather a rare person. After all, I have a disease that is about six times more unlikely than leiomyosarcoma (that’s the long, rather rhythmic name of the kind of cancer we’re talking about.) I’m an odd duck. And my own aunt is dealing with a rare sarcoma, as I wrote about in my post, Perspective. Rarity is not impossibility. And the fibroids were growing more (though not as rapidly) before the Lupron.
We did talk about what would happen if it was cancer. First of all, surgery, a hysterectomy, would be recommended at this point for anyone, simply because the fibroids are far too uncomfortable, and even detrimental to health, taking up so much room in my abdomen, and one causing very heavy flow. Surgery is also the treatment for this kind of cancer. Surgery for me, however, is different. Odd as I am (and I mean unusual) there would be seriously grave difficulty putting me on a vent and taking me off of a vent. There would also be great difficulty for the surgeon maneuvering inside my tiny abdomen to remove such a large mass, the doctor explained. The doctor also made it very clear that recovery would be the opposite of simple for me. Recovery most probably wouldn’t be recovery. Too many underlying risk factors.
He is against surgery and doesn’t recommend it for me at all.
I said, “If it were cancer, then it would be death by cancer or death by surgery.” He agreed.
Thinking about what the end would be like, I asked if this kind of cancer metastasized. He said, “Yes, and goes to the lungs.”
I replied, “Well, that wouldn’t take long.”
Rolling my eyes at the time, I didn’t see him smile, but my parents, who were with me, did. I said to him, “One always wonders about the ‘lingering’ factor when it comes to cancer.” Of all the organs in which a cancerous tumor could grow in my body, my lungs, already compromised, would certainly mean the quickest end.
Please understand that I don’t write this in order to sound morbid or to make any of you, my dear readers, feel bad. This is life. Hundreds of thousands of people go through this every day, are going through terrible cancer things right now. As I sat with my parents in the outer waiting room, a wide 9th floor hallway that was a wall of windows looking out over the city of Boston, I was keenly aware that I looked like a patient who had already gone through cancer treatments – and some pretty terrible treatments at that. There were people being wheeled in for their appointments, a young man with a knit cap despite the beautiful, warm day, whose girlfriend or wife was telling another person that today was painful for him. And there was me, most probably with no cancer in my body at all, crumpled up, weak as waste in my wheelchair.
God willing, the odds are with me in this case, and all is benign. Benign, for me, doesn’t mean comfortable and untroublesome – but I’m okay with that. If the fibroids begin to shrink, then it means that I don’t have cancer and the Lupron is doing what it was designed to do. Mind you this, however. If the fibroids shrink, and I don’t have cancer, it is by the grace of God. I don’t say this as someone who has no faith in medical science at all. Lupron is a tool. If God chooses that tool to reverse something malignant inside of me, that is God’s choice. These are my “feelings”, this is my sense of things right now. I do believe in miracles, although I never ever depend on them. If they were routine and dependable, they wouldn’t be miraculous. However, the truth is, I believe, that miracles happen every day and we don’t even know it. I believe that my prayers for a miracle may be answered with a “yes” and I won’t even be able to prove it.
My prayer may have already been answered. I don’t know right now. Not knowing is extremely difficult, especially when the unknown may be something growing uncontrollably inside my own body. But… What is control? Who is really in control? Not me. And that’s actually a good thing. I can’t see the whole picture, I’m too little. I can’t know everything. Not even this.
The doctors said that if I did have the bad luck of having leiomyosarcoma, then that would basically be it. Nothing to be done. The thing is, he referred to this as “bad luck” several times earlier. This last time that he used that term I said, “It wouldn’t be bad luck. It’s just what happens in life sometimes.”
I already have a rare disease, but I don’t consider myself unlucky at all. I am loved and I’ve always known that I am loved. This has never been a question, never an unknown for me. Do you know what a blessing that is? Sadly, I think it may be a rarity – the worst kind of rarity. There are healthy, talented, beautiful people in the world who do not know that they are loved. Millions of people, rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy, who look for it in all the wrong places, who suffer terribly from unlove. That is the worst cancer in our world. And it spreads when people do nothing to help their fellow human beings in need. It spreads when children are taught that they should have whatever they like, when materialism, consumerism, and hedonism take control of human life. It spreads maliciously with selfishness, prejudice, fear, and isolationism.
But, there is a cure, though it is a long process. The cure begins with simple kindness – kindness for those to whom you don’t want to be kind. Christ’s love is the cure. If you can love as he loves, then you can spread the healing. You, and I, can be the treatment that brings the life-giving, life-saving, light of true love into a person’s heart and soul. Evangelization is, at heart, spreading the good news that every person on this planet is loved, loved intimately and infinitely.
May we do more than just tell people that. May we also show it by loving with simple kindness.
Nothing, not even any thing that they can come up with at one of the world’s best hospitals, is more powerful and vitally important to human well-being than that.
That’s what I know. And that, really, should be enough.
(Thank you, Mom and Dad, for always loving me and giving yourselves so generously and unconditionally to me. Even when I didn’t believe in Christ, you were giving Christ to me. Father’s Day is coming up – thank you, Daddy for braving the drive in the big city, for helping me in every little and big thing, for literally carrying me. I love you both so much!)
© 2017 Christina Chase
photo credit: Aaron Burden, used for free with no restrictions from Unsplash.com
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.