I have fielded the "So, do you still have cancer?" question at least six times in the past five days.
Most of the time it's phrased more delicately: Are you finished with your treatments?
The ambiguity of that version is outstanding, but I'm pretty sure I understand what it is that these people -- friends, family, medical care providers -- really want to know.
They want to know, Is this going to kill you?
I try to be both factual and kind. All of the doctors treating my cancer have assured me that my life expectancy has not changed, I tell them.
If they really want to know if I still have cancer, though, that I don't know. I won't know until more follow-up bloodwork is done, and my first follow-up body scan is done in the spring. So, I have to wait to find out the answer to that question.
Most people seem to think that's OK. Like, you can't know the answer so there's no point in stressing out over it. As if I could forget about it for huge swathes of time and be carefree and well, normal. As if.
I do manage to forget about it for short periods of time. That's nice. I keep getting stuck on my staging, though. If I were four years older, I would be at stage 4; the 5 year survival rate is only 45%. On the other hand, since I'm younger than 45, the cancer is classified as stage 2 (or possibly even stage 1!, it's not clear) and the 5 year survival rate is 100%.
While it's extremely comforting to be in the 100% survival rate group, I have a really hard time accepting that the probable outcomes of this disease can be graphed by a step function. In fact I'm rather sure that they cannot be, and the staging rules are written up this way just to keep things manageable.
I'm not trying to be pessimistic here, but it just seems... unlikely. I have too many questions and no way to get answers, but then I realize it doesn't matter anyway. Having the answers wouldn't change my actual condition, although I might feel better, knowing more. But that would be an illusion, I think.
Better to not to stir up mud in the emotional waters at all, these days. So this thing I do not know will have to go back on the shelf a while longer.