Nov. 30 was the one-year anniversary of my big surgery at MD Anderson to remove my second tumor after successfully shrinking it with IV chemo over six months. I remember laying on the gurney in pre-op, all hooked up to the IV, anticipating the wave of drugs to put me out. Unexpectedly, a chaplain showed up and asked if he could say a prayer for me. It hit me again how difficult this surgery was going to be. When a complete stranger offers to pray for you, it is no small matter. The 7-hr surgery to remove a DEAD but very stuck tumor went well and I escaped the need for the HIPEC portion of the surgery. Whew.
On the same day as my one-year anniversary of the surgery, I got a call from the the nurse at the mammogram office letting me know that I had a suspicious spot in my left breast that needed further imaging right away. First thought: my appendiceal adenocarcinoma has metastasized. It was very surreal. Follow-up tests were scheduled for the next day but it was a tense 24-hrs of waiting. After holding myself together overnight, the tests showed nothing. False-positive. Geez. It took a day for the good news to sink in as I was terrified that the cancer had returned. But not so.
One year ago on Dec. 11, I was released from the hospital after surgery just in time for my birthday. I was so humbled to have another chance at life. I am extremely grateful for a cancer-free year, for being able to enjoy my family and having life get back to “normal,” for being able to exercise and just feel good. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about cancer in some context. But that’s OK. It gives me an appreciation of how good things are again and how precious each day is.
As I enter the holiday season with all its distractions and noise, the past two weeks have reminded me again to keep my focus on the things that really matter – my family and friends. Everything else is just fluff!