Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Year, Another Candle On The Cake

Well I happened to look back at my post from my birthday last year and my first thought was that was only a year ago?? It seems like 10... it's probably aged me 10 at the least. I'm happy to say that my Dad is here to celebrate another year with me, something I did not believe I was going to be able to say. This past year has been full of ups and downs and a state of limbo, not unlike the past few years really but yet so different at the same time. I think we've found a new 'normal' with everything and seem to have adjusted to this life with cancer... if there is such a thing as adjusting. I'm not sure many people get the chance to do this because usually cancer shows up and it's a whirlwind and then the person is gone, like a tornado that just rips the earth right from under your feet. In our case it's more like a housefire, a slow burn.... It's like an extended version of a cancer tornado with the possibility that the fire may go out, you just never know. (If that makes any coherent sense to anyone that hasn't dealt with this???)

So we've found a way to 'adjust' to life with cancer. What does that mean?

Well basically it's a constant life of good and then bad and then good and then bad.... It's weeks where things are quiet with nothing to report and then weeks of chaos, emergency admits, doctors to argue with, a stubborn patient to argue with, and stress. Lots of stress. On average it's at least a lot of appointments and things to keep track of, surveying the situation on a constant basis and an unending nagging in the back of your brain. The time I spend with my Dad is also a mix, sometimes I feel like the "old" Dad is back, we talk like we used to, we have coherent conversations, he remembers things, he smiles and jokes, he has energy, he calls ME to see how I'm doing ..... and then there are other times where the lights are on but no one is home, he's tired, conversation is forced and awkward or we're fighting over his stubbornness to heed my advice.

That's what an extended life with cancer is.

I've come to a place of acceptance with the situation, not acceptance that this is happening because I will NEVER accept that nor understand why but an acceptance that this is our life so we need to roll with it. There's a bit less panic (depending on the week) and a bit more calm about it all for lack of a better word.

I have stopped clinging to things so tightly, like the idea of moving which we had intended to do last year before we found out about the latest diagnosis and we put an abrupt hold on shortly after. I would never in a million years have conceded to the idea of moving farther away from my Dad (even 30 minutes) this time last year. With all of the uncertainty I wanted to be as close as possible to soak in every last thing that I could, if it was the last.

It's not that I don't still want this, I do, but I've decided that putting my life on hold for the sake of cancer and the havoc it's caused is making me even MORE powerless against it all. The truth of the matter is that life is going to unfold the way it is supposed to, I don't have a cure for cancer so I certainly have no control over what is going to happen with my Dad.... I can kick and scream and fight and hold on for dear life but it isn't going to change anything. In the short term it makes me feel better to at least know that I am here for support, all caught up in the middle of this ball of yarn, and that probably won't change but in the long term I am letting cancer take over even more aspects of my life by doing this and not letting go....

So this year, we will move.

It's things like this that are a part of adjusting to the new normal. And I can't say if this is how I'd feel if we didn't have great feedback on my Dad's prognosis, if things were progressing I'm pretty sure I'd still be clinging. For dear life. But since things are stable for now I feel like I can let go a little bit. My Dad's cancer is just that, stable, at the moment. Essentially for the past 9 months of scans there has been no cancer progression. The original mass is gone and there are no soft tissue indicators of cancer at all. The bone lesions are all still present but have not spread or grown or gotten any worse. The thing about bones is that they take a long time to heal so these spots will show up on the scans even AFTER the cancer is completely gone until the bone has regenerated. This process can take a long time so it is possible that the cancer is gone and the lesions haven't healed yet, or it's possible that the cancer is still there, only time will tell. What we do know is that whatever treatment we're doing right now is helping, it's doing it's job.... so we hang around in limbo as usual. The main problem at the moment is dealing with complications from the cancer and chemo, dealing with the nephrostomy tubes, ureteral fistulas, and constant infections...

And that is how the past year has gone. We continue to be cautiously optimistic but mostly we've all been learning to continue to live while dealing with this instead of wallowing in stagnation. We've had a lot to celebrate, a lot of good things that have helped us keep perspective I think. Family weddings, my graduation, vacations, new houses, a lot of firsts, and 2 little dudes to provide laughter and distraction.

Overall year 26 was an experience- both good and bad, lessons learned, struggles endured in all ways. My mental capacity was stretched to the absolute maximum and through it all I've learned a lot about life and myself. It has given me some much needed perspective on so many things from friendships, to unconditional love, to marriage, to perseverance, to my own strength. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't give all of that back to crawl back under the safety of normal life before all of this but at least I know I survived it.... and so the mission for year 27 is to continue to move forward, eyes ahead not back.



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