Although I had already had a scan half way through my treatments, they were no indicator as to how things would turn out in the end. One of the hardest aspects of having cancer and the brutal treatments that go along with it, is that there is no guarantee that any of it will work. The stakes were high and I had a lot to lose if my cancer did not respond. The day after my last chemo session I went for another CT scan. I remember sitting in the changing room after donning one of those hideous and very unflattering hospital gowns that refuse to close at the back, and sitting in the chair with my head in my hands, praying. My palms were sweaty, my mouth and throat were dry and I shivered because of the freezing aircons that had been cranked up because of the 45 degree heat outside. I was barely holding it together.
There is now a new kind of testing called Genomic Profiling, where a piece of your tumor is tested to see which treatments will be most effective in treating your type of cancer. To start with my doctor had not yet decided which protocol of treatment to follow now that my chemotherapy was over, to keep me stable and in partial remission for as long as possible…if the chemotherapy had even been effective in the first place. He was thinking about sending my tumor in for Genomic Profiling due to the complexity of my case, but wanted to hold off for a while longer. These tests are very expensive and he wanted to look into alternative treatments for the time being in order to keep as many options open to me as possible.
After going for a preliminary scan, drinking a nauseating amount of contrast fluids and waiting for an hour for my body to process it all, I lay on the table for the final scan. As the table moved back and forth I prayed harder than I ever have before.
I’ve never wanted to bring religion into breast cancer…the two definitely don’t gel and one has nothing to do with the other, but lying on that table I wasn’t praying to God. My faith by this time had been shaken to the core and I was still clawing to try and get it back. I have to be honest at this point and tell you that I have never been a particularly religious person. I do believe that there is a good force out there and maybe that is my God. I suppose I conceive God to be different to how a lot people see it. Like my mother I am more spiritual. One of my beliefs is that according to the natural law of the universe, whatever you put out comes back to you. If you are a positive person and do good for others, you will receive good and positive things back. I think that I was lucky enough to inherit my mothers natural optimism and love for life and so when I was diagnosed, I was shattered. I was never a bad or negative person, so how on earth could breast cancer happen to me? I mean you get murderers, rapists and others who do despicable things, but do any of them ever get cancer of any kind? I think not! It was all so confusing and my belief system started to dissipate. After trying to live my life the right way, how could the universe be so random and cruel? How could my life be reduced to hanging from a cliff’s edge by me fingernails?
None of it made any sense…and then with time it slowly dawned on me that not everything that happens in life holds mystic meaning behind it. It is a lot more comforting to hold onto the belief that things in life happen for a reason, and often they do, but sometimes things in life do just happen full stop. No meaning to hold onto, to keep your sanity intact. Just this terribly difficult pill that you have no choice but to swallow.
A week later my doctor delivered the news that I’d been waiting for a long time to hear. The treatment had worked. My scan was almost clean and I could breathe again. My family and I were absolutely elated and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had a new lease of life again. I planned to return to the gym as soon as my energy levels allowed and most of the immediate side effects from the chemo had abated.
The worst was over and just that knowledge was an immense relief, however my treatment would need to continue in order to keep me stable…and we still had no idea what that was going to be.