…and gets told that he has cancer again after ten years.
Sorry, pretty shitty punchline. But it’s the one that I’ve been dealing with since Friday, October 11.
When I finished my chemotherapy for germ cell cancer back in September of 2003, I’ve been going back for regular tests make sure I was still cancer-free. For the first year or two, these tests were intense—blood tests and chest, abdominal, and pelvic CT scans every three months. For a year after that, they dropped to every six months, and then annually. After five years, no more CTs; just blood tests.
My anxieties experienced a similar decline. I thought about my cancer constantly for the first few years, then occasionally, then pretty much not at all.
So this year—my ten year anniversary of being cancer-free—I almost didn’t make an appointment. I’d started to get the feeling that my doctor didn’t need or want to see me anymore. In fact, on my nine-year visit, he turned me over to a physician’s assistant. I figured I was in the clear.
The nurse had just taken my temperature and blood pressure, and I was waiting in the little room for someone—my doctor? another PA?—to come in. As I waited, I Googled “blood pressure charts” because the numbers the nurse recited to me seemed a little high. I was worried that I might have hypertension.
I’m trying to recreate that moment in my head. I’m hunched over in the stiff-backed chair, one hand holding my phone while the other one scrolls through Google hits and waits for them to load. While they do, I stare at my black Vans, which are starting to fade out to gray in the toes a little. One shoelace looks a little loose.
I want to savor this moment because it’s the last moment of peace that I remember. Funny thing is, it didn’t seem peaceful at the time (Do I have high blood pressure? Do I need to get a new pair of shoes?). I thought these were real worries. A few seconds later, they became laughable.
My doctor walked in. He was looking at an open folder in his hands.
“Your tumor markers are up,” he said.
Thanks, folks, you’ve been great. I’ll be here all week.