I just returned from the College Art Association conference. It was at this confetence two years ago that I got my first indication that I had cancer. My dermatologist’s office called me wanting me to come in to the office as soon as I possibly could to discuss the growth removed the previous week. I’m not stupid. I knew what it meant.
Despite this, I was able to give my panel presentation. Functional denial is an incredibly powerful force.
Last year I was deep in the middle of the worst of the side effects. I was barely able to travel. And I was staying with K with whom things were strained and tensions high because of how bad shape I was in the last time I visited. I skipped nearly the whole conference, only showing up to moderate my panel. And i took cabs to and from, despite the fact that where i was staying was on the same subway line as the conference. I remember walking around the LA convention center baffled and exhausted — trying to find the room where we were supposed to speak.
This year was starkly different. I was only in for two days of the four day conference but I went to many panels and was actively engaged in the conversation. My presentation was full of energy. And I really felt good.
I’m ten days from my official cancerversary of February 22nd. But in a way the conference is a premonition of my milestone, much like the first phone call during the conference was a harbinger of the turmoil and illness to follow.
I get my two-year scans on the 18th and I meet with my dermatologist on the 22nd exactly two years from when I was in his office and he broke the bad news to me. Two years is a really significant point in the timeline. My understanding is that most melanoma reoccurs at around 18 months. That is where the graph peaks. And it dips pretty agressively around 24 months. The curve never drops to zero, so the calculus means the area under the curve ends up adding up when you factor in a lifetime along the x-axis, but it is as close as it is going to get.
I am mostly excited and relieved, but a small part of me is waiting to exhale until after the results of the scans come back. I fully expect them to be negative, but then I was also sure that my sentinel lymph node biopsy would be negative: the odds were 85% that it would be negative and only a 15% chance that it would have made it to my lymph nodes. And yet it was there, 15% be damned.
So I’m getting ready to be hopeful, but I’m being cautious about letting my emotions move into that space yet. Even as i finish titrating off of Lexapro with my last 1/4 dose tomorrow, (leaving Klonopin as the only drug I am still on), even as I make it through this memory laden conference, I still have the scans. Then I can finish this transition and move into a new phase.