Monday, November 14, 2011

The End

I woke up this morning with sweaty palms and a racing heart. It was 7:15 AM, and I needed to get my boys up and ready for school.

Six and a half more hours.

At 1:45 PM, I'd be walking into Memorial Sloan-Kettering to learn what would be in store for at least the next three months of my life. Will I be able to start putting the pieces back together, or will my body need to be poisoned and beat up again?

For the next hour and a half, I kept myself busy dishing out waffles and milk, wiping faces, packing lunch money and driving my babies to school.

Now what?

It was only 8:45, and my mind was already on overdrive. The what ifs were taking over the positive thoughts, and I felt the panic attack starting in my chest. I didn't want to deal with my feelings until I had to, so I forced myself up the stairs and went back to sleep for a few hours.

At 1:00, Jimmi and I were in the car and on our way. We drove in silence for most of the trip, mainly because I was busy answering "good luck" and "thinking of you" texts. My friends and family have been so caring and supportive over the last few months. I hated the thought of cutting myself off from them, once again, if I were to receive bad news. As horrible as it is, that's been my way of handling the cancer experience. The more difficult things would get for me, the more I would withdraw and hide from the world. Not the best coping mechanism, I know, but it was the only one that would keep me from biting peoples' heads off out of sheer anger and pain.

We walked into the cancer center and greeted the familiar receptionist with a smile. "Results day," I reminded her as Jimmi and I headed toward the elevator. "Good luck!" she called after us. The doors opened, and we stepped inside. Jimmi pushed the button for the third floor and the doors closed. We didn't move. A few seconds later, the doors opened again, but no one got into the elevator. "That's weird," I said to Jimmi. He looked at me and joked, "Wonder who's in here with us." Without even thinking, I said, "Maybe it's my grandma."

I was referring to my mom's mom, who died of cancer when I was 10 years old. After seven grandsons, she was thrilled when she finally got me. Her only granddaughter. I know I was very young when she passed, but I remember her so well, and I think about her all the time. I know she's been with me through this journey, and it made sense that she'd want to be with me today. For a brief moment, I was comforted by the thought of her presence. Then the elevator doors opened on the third floor, and the familiar, yet indescribable smell of the waiting area hit my nose and brought on the psychosomatic nausea.

I announced myself to the receptionist, and he handed me a clipboard with a checklist to assess how I was feeling. Stress level? Hmmm...how about a nine? Ten seemed a bit too dramatic, even for me.

Jimmi and I found my mom sitting on a couch in the corner. She looked as uneasy as I felt.

"Suzanne?" called nurse Nikki. Here we go. Jimmi and my mom went down the hall to waiting room number two as Nikki took me in to get my weight, blood pressure, heart rate and two vials of blood. "Relax!" she commanded as she watched the heart monitor hit 103 beats per minute.

I joined my support team when Nikki was done, and shorty after, we were all called into an exam room to wait for Dr. Gorsky. Jimmi, my mom and I were laughing and making jokes as we waited, and then we heard the sound of high-heeled shoes clomping closer and closer to our door. The handle started to turn, and the three of us became instantly silent. Dr. Gorsky was only halfway through the door when she announced, "It's all good news!" "Really?" I asked, hardly believing her words. "Yes. Your scan was clear." It took a few seconds to really process what she was telling me, but once I had, all I could do was say, "Thank you for not making me wait too long to tell me that. Am I allowed to cry?" I looked at my mom, who didn't bother to ask permission. "I'm already doing that," she said as the tears welled up in her eyes.

Dr. Gorsky had said the words "Your scan was clear." But it meant so much more. With those four words, she managed to say, "Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" all in one.

"So I need to come back in three months for another scan?" I asked. The doctor looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, "You need to live your life. Then, sometime in February, when you get a chance, you'll have another scan."

Live my life. I can live my life again.

Another question. "My 8 year-old keeps asking if he can kiss me on the lips. I've been telling him no because I don't know about my immune system and germs. But he asks me every time I tuck him in at bedtime." Dr. Gorsky laughed and jokingly scolded me, "Kiss your son! Do whatever you want to do!" I couldn't wait to tell Justin. He'd be so happy!

My mom asked a few more questions until Dr. Gorsky finally said, "Let's not worry about that now. You had a bigger monster to fry; and you fried it. For now, consider it fried."

We thanked her, wished her a Happy Thanksgiving, and headed out. "Wait!" I said to my mom and Jimmi, "Do you mind if I go into the chemo suite and say hello to Mary? I want to tell her about the scan."

I opened the door to the area of the building that, for the last few months, I dreaded the most. But I had to see my favorite nurse. During my last day of treatments in September, I promised I'd visit and give her the news. As I walked into the suite, I pretended I was wearing blinders. I didn't want to see the IVs delivering poison into helpless veins. I didn't want to see the patients whose skin looked pale and grey. I didn't want to see the shiny, bald heads or smell the combination of latex gloves and alcohol prep pads. Finally, Mary made her way to where I was standing. She was holding an IV bag of saline with her left arm, but that didn't stop her from giving me a tight hug. "You look great!" she exclaimed. "Is everything ok?" I gave her my good news and she wrapped her arms - or arm - around me again. "I'm so happy for you."

As we were leaving the building, my mom asked me to call my dad and give him the news. I dialed the number and waited to hear his voice. "Daddy? I got a clear scan!" I figured he'd be happy. I figured he'd say, "That's great!" But I never would've guessed that my big, strong, manly father would literally burst into tears that would render him unable to get any words out at all. "Daddy?" I heard the sobbing on the other end of the phone. He managed to squeak out, "I'm so happy, Sweetheart. I'm so happy."

I proceeded to text everyone I knew as Jimmi drove us home. But I had one more call I needed to make. I dialed my ex-husband's number. "Can I please speak to Justin?" I asked when he answered the phone. "Sure," he agreed as he called our 8 year-old to the phone. "Mommy!" That voice melts my heart. "Hi Monkey! I have good news for you!" No, my kids didn't know I had a scan. They didn't know I was waiting for results today. Honestly, I don't think there's a need to give them a reason to think their mommy might get sick again. The news I needed to give Justin was special, just for him. "What is it, Mom?" "Well, I talked to the doctor today, and she said you can kiss me on the lips!" My little boy screamed with excitement so loudly, I had to take the phone away from my ear. "Really? I can?" "Yes, baby, really." "Hooraaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

I felt so loved.

Today was a turning point for me. I know my battle is far from over. Every three months, I'll go through the same agony of scanning and waiting. As long as all stays well, every three months will turn to every six months until five cancer-free years have passed. That's the goal.

Right now, I have good news. Right now, I'm cancer free. Right now, I'm making a fresh start.

That's why I'm choosing to end my blog now.

Today not only marked the end of seven months of Hell, but also the beginning of the rest of my life. I need to close the book on the negative and open a new door to what will come. I need to focus on living one day at a time and stop obsessing over this disease that has taken away too much of happiness already.

I will sign off now with the hope that the words I've written will give at least one other person the courage and strength to fight this evil monster...

and win.

8 comments:

  1. Am crying. You did it. You f*cking did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    .... as if those of us who know you ever had ANY. DOUBT.

    :) :) :)

    We love you. Now go get back to LIFE.
    xoxoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Crying happy tears for you. You are so inspiring. I'll miss your posts, but I'm so happy you are going to just go and live your life. Enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?

    Thanks,

    Cameron

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cameron,

      You can email me at ZanneMar1@aol.com

      Suzanne

      Delete
  4. Wow, this story really hits close to home with me. My mother has been in a battle with cancer for quite some time now and gets cancer treatments in Richmond, IN. Stay strong and keep your head up.

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