I let my mind drift frequently these days to the alternate universe, the one where we have moved to California and all our problems are somehow washed away by the blue waters of the Pacific. I stand on the cliffs and look out to sea and I am surrounded by blue and that amazing California light. The dream heals my soul.
Yesterday as we rushed from ophthalmologist to ophthalmologist in what turned out to be an epic day of doctors and lasers and waiting, all to repair a horseshoe tear in James’s retina, I completely forgot that I was waiting for a call from my oncologist. I held my cell phone in my hand through the first two appointments, sure the call would come at a moment when I couldn’t talk — caught between two doctors, the one in the room and the one on the phone — but eventually, I stuck the phone back in my bag, overwhelmed by what was happening in the moment. I forgot, too, that I had silenced my phone, so when the call came sometime after 7 pm, I almost missed it and then, not recognizing the caller id, almost decided not to answer.
The body seems to have a mind of its own, and mine is unwilling to go quietly into menopause. My ovaries insist on continuing to produce estrogen despite the fact that I am 55 years old and have been drugging them into submission for two years. I am unsure, but maybe beginning to regret that I didn’t have them removed at the time of my surgery — removing them now is complicated by the fact that I have so much scar tissue in my abdomen, a byproduct of my reconstruction. I don’t think removing them at the time of my original surgery was really an option either, but I wish it had been. I don’t think we knew until after my mastectomy what type of breast cancer I had, I don’t think we knew that estrogen was the enemy.
For now, the plan is to wait a month and retest. If my numbers aren’t what they should be, then I will go back on the Lupron, or maybe revisit what surgery would look like at this point. When I asked my oncologist if being off the Lupron for another month was going to somehow make recurrence more likely, he said that’s not really how it works. It’s complicated. And while he applies mathematical formulas and plays a statistics games, the reality is we don’t have any idea what the future holds.
Sometimes life is as random and spontaneous as a horseshoe tear in the retina, sometimes it is as beautiful as my California dream, and sometimes it just is what it is — a long string of fortunate and unfortunate events. I used to think there would be plenty of time, that I could hold on to my dreams for years and they would be there, waiting, whenever I was ready. But I know more now. I know that time is the one thing there is never enough of, and dreams don’t wait.
I no longer think about my cancer every day. But every once in a while it pushes its way forward, demands my attention, and the only way to push it back is to address the fear all over again. In the end, I know my body will betray me — despite my best efforts. No one has forever. Yet, I hold tenaciously to my dream, to California, to the misguided notion that moving my family across the country — to the place I still call home — will somehow heal me and set us free.