Remission.

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The short version of this post is this: I am in remission and wildly grateful and stunned about the news. To the large number of people I care about who are hearing this via social media or blog post,  I am sorry—I usually try to avoid this but have been so exhausted this week that we told very few people individually. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from you! Just that it was easier to explain once instead of many times. Thank you for understanding. Also! If I don’t text you back right away, it’s just because I’m tired and I will respond soon!

So here’s the recap: This week, I had a scan one day and then bloodwork and an appointment with Dr. K the following day. It was oddly comforting to be back in the cancer center after my longest period away in nine months. A few hours after my scan, I got a call from Dr. K that it looked great. Nico and I were both deeply relieved, but the completely honest truth is that we are so surprised by this news that we still haven’t quite made it to all-out happy yet. I feel grateful, comforted, and insanely, absurdly, undeservingly lucky right now, and it’s still kind of sinking in.

When Dr. K told me over the phone, I was relieved but still didn’t really believe it. We didn’t even tell anyone for a couple of hours, I think because we needed to adjust–and I needed to physically see the scan and hear it from her in person. What if she just didn’t want me to be nervous but was actually going to present me with further treatment options in our appointment? There is absolutely zero percent chance that she would ever do that to a patient. She’s a straight shooter and wants patients to have all the information they need, but I still needed more information. The self-protective instincts I grew this past year run deep, apparently.

In the appointment the next day, I kept saying, “really? all of it?” until she pulled up my first and most recent scans. In the first, you basically couldn’t see my heart and lungs because they were cloaked in cancer cells (in addition to the nodes on my neck and underarms). Now there is still some “fullness” (Dr. K’s word) around my heart, which sort of looks like swelling on the scan but is just scar tissue hanging out because the mass is not completely gone—nothing else. The difference is remarkable.

According to other survivor (!!) friends and my therapist, this is all totally normal. “Everyone is excited but the survivor at first,” one told me, which was helpful to know because I mostly felt like a crazy person for not being shout-it-from-the-rooftops thrilled immediately. We were so braced for bad news; I’d been itchy and had chest pains for days leading up to the scans, which were both presenting symptoms before I was diagnosed, which made it hard to feel like we were actually going to get a good result.

Next week, Nico and I fly out to Miami for five days of sun at a condo on the beach (thanks to Nico’s cousins who will be letting us stay there!). I think leaving Chicago and more specifically our apartment will help this all feel more real—I’ve become both weirdly attached to and resentful of it while I’ve spent almost every single day here for the past nine months. Hopefully the change of scenery will help shock my brain into believing that for now (and maybe forever?) treatment is done.

Reading back through, this post doesn’t sound super happy, but I am of course happy and excited for what comes next. I’ve loved the responses from the few people we’ve told, so would love to hear from anyone who’d like to reach out, and YAY is a lovely thing to hear—just because my brain’s hasn’t totally caught up yet doesn’t mean we aren’t happy and aren’t glad that other people are happy too.

Hearing from people I care about has gotten me through this past year. To everyone who has checked in, asked how I’m doing, found ways to be empathetic and in solidarity with this experience, let me feel how I feel, and in general found unexpected, loving ways to show up for me and my family, thank you. This year taught me a lot about how people show care and love, and while I’m not sure I can say I wouldn’t trade that for anything—because boy was this the long way round—I appreciate it all the same.

To everyone who is currently in treatment or has lost someone to cancer, is in remission and still living with the fear of recurrence, or is caring for or has cared for someone you love, please know that I think of you all the time. With you is where my brain feels most comfortable, because you understand the complexities of this past year and how changed we are because of it.

Finally, because several people have asked, yes I’m going to keep blogging for a bit. I’ll do another post about what actually happens after this medically, and probably my adventures in trying to be a normal 31-year-old again, but right now I just wanted to share this big little chunk of news.

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