Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Sinking In

It's been a couple of weeks since we got the news that Clyde's tests had indicated that she was beating the cancer. After so many years with the disease it was almost surreal to have a clear CAT scan. Lymphoma, if I understand it correctly, is caused when the bone marrow creates white blood cells that are mutated. Those mutant cells collect in the lymph system and other organs. These collection sites become swollen to the point that they are noticed by the patient. A CAT scan clearly "sees" these sites. I don't think Clyde has had a clear scan in almost five years. That is, until a couple of weeks ago.

So the news is all very positive and we should all be ecstatic. The impression I get is that Clyde's mental state is just that. My reaction however, has been considerably more reserved. As the cell donor, obviously, I am very close to the situation. I too should be ecstatic but I haven't been, and I find that enormously troubling. After all, I can cure cancer, right?

Therein lies the rub. To think that we have "cured" anything seems arrogant to me. At the moment, Clyde is showing no signs of the lymphoma that she's carried around all these years. Still, a part of me needs a finish line, someone telling me that the game is over and we have won. The reality is that I know that declaration of victory doesn't exist in these situations. Sure, we have the lead at the moment, a big one at that, but we're up against a formidable opponent with an impressive win record. Part of me will need to stand guard for a long time.

T-cell transplant recipients that are cancer free after five years have a fifty-percent chance of being cancer free for the rest of their days. The strength of Clyde's character and the manner in which she has responded to treatment since being diagnosed leads me to believe that her battle with cancer is probably behind her. I want to believe that we have, in fact, won.

My happiness, as it relates to Clyde's disease, will come from acceptance. The facts that I must come to accept are that my blood has helped Clyde become cancer free today. The key word here is "today." We don't know where this is going to go tomorrow, next week or next year. What we have is a clean bill of health today. That needs to be enough.

Going into this procedure there were a mountain of risks and what-ifs. Clyde has overcome or avoided nearly all of them. Her medical team refers to her progress as "remarkable." Everything about her is remarkable if you ask me. Tonight she feels and looks great. She's excited about the possibilities that a cancer-free life holds for her. It's likely that her life expectancy has been greatly increased. Will the lymphoma return? Maybe, but today it's looking at our backs and we're pulling away. Today, we're in the lead. That needs to be enough.

Be well.

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