Here is what I learned this week: I am much better able to handle being the patient than the worried wife. We had a scare with my husband this week that forced him to take only his second sick day in the 12+ years we have been together. I do not want to go into details because that is his personal business, but we ended up spending most of Thursday at the doctor's office and then waiting for testing. Early in the day, I was concerned by the sudden onset of his symptoms. I jumped into action, making phone calls and coming up with a plan of action. Throw a problem at me and I want to take charge and fix it. While I was almost certain the symptoms were brought about by something fairly benign, as I raced around to pick up kids and attend sports meetings, I thought, "well, what if it is something serious? What then?" That fear was so much worse than anything I have felt for myself over the last year. I can handle anything that happens to me, but I cannot bear the thought of my husband or children being sick or suffering. We do not have clear answers yet as to what happened. There will be follow up with a specialist, but is symptoms have improved over the last few days.
I remember early on in the process of my diagnosis, Stephen saying that he would rather go through my surgery and treatment in my place. I had an instantaneous almost angry reaction of, "NO WAY! Don't even say that!" Not that we had any choice in the matter, of course, but when you love someone deeply, you really would take pain on their behalf. On Thursday, I found myself in that same exact spot, but with our roles reversed. I found myself engaging in silent prayer and bargaining, "Please do not let anything be wrong with him. I could not face the world without him." It is true, I would rather it be me. I can handle anything, except the thought of seeing him or the kids suffer or losing them. I am pretty confident he is fine and is going to be ok, but this was frightening and emotionally draining. Seeing my husband or children sick or hurt is my kryptonite.
On Friday, while still exhausted from the emotional upheaval of the previous day, I got up and ran long. I have a race I am training for after all. I also had an appointment with my oncologist in the afternoon and I needed to get out of my own head for a while. So I hit the trail for a therapeutic long run of 23+ miles. I would have liked to have run farther, but I ran out of time. I shared some miles with my husband, and ran some alone. Along the way, we saw this mama and her babies, who still had their spots. We had to stop and snap a picture.
I squeezed in the most mileage I could before running home to shower and change. Without going into too many details, the appointment went well and I currently have "no evidence of disease". Obviously, this is exactly what you want. It is really good news. But Stephen and I left the appointment still feeling a bit uneasy and not entirely reassured. I have been referring to what I feel as "cautiously optimistic". I am not jumping up and down nor am I celebrating...yet. The doctor said it is completely normal to have emotional distress related to testing and follow up appointments, and that I may never feel completely confident again. He also said that with every hiccup I may fear the cancer has returned. I know so far, this has not been the case for me. Whenever I have a GI issue, I just assume it is my new body still trying to figure things out. I truly do not interpret every little twinge as something bad. I do wonder, though, is anything lurking in there that will not cause symptoms until it is too late? There is nothing I can do about that unease except go to my follow up appointments and hope for the best. I will not live in fear but I also will not take my health for granted.
I wish I felt like screaming from the rooftops that I am cancer free, but I just do not feel ready to do that. All I know is that for today, the radiologist did not see any signs of cancer. And so I will do the things I want to and am able to for today. I do not know at what point I will feel confident. In a year? Or two? Or five? While on a run, I started thinking about what I would do if I knew I had one year to live. How would I spend my time? Who would I choose to be with? I do not think these things because I believe I only have a year, but because I used to assume my time was nearly infinite. Now I make no assumptions of that sort. Maybe if we all knew we only had a year left to live, our lives would look and feel exactly like they do now. Or maybe they would be entirely different.
I am trying to make very conscious decisions about what I take on. I like to help and do things for others. But I read something recently that reminded me that every time we agree to take one thing on we will have to say no to something else. No matter what, our time is not infinite. Now I am trying to ask myself before I say "yes" to things, is this really how I want to spend my time? If I were going to die in a year, would I be happy that I chose to do this or would I be angry about having wasted my time? This is a constant exercise in learning not to be a people pleaser but in learning to do what is really important for me and my family. It is a daily challenge to make each decision very consciously, but I think it is really important for my own mental well being.
So I continue to run and train and spend time with people I love. This week, I ran with Jenny, Debby, Tracey and my husband. They are all people who I love dearly and I am grateful for every opportunity that I get to be with them.
This is Tracey and I at Spruce Mountain Open space.
I ran back to back long runs Friday and Saturday. Friday was a 23 mile run and on Saturday, Stephen and I ran 18.5.
We have a couple more weeks of long runs and then we have to taper for our races. Spending time running together is our quiet way of celebrating the good news we received this week. Running has taken on the feeling of a sacred ritual that binds us together as we struggle against obstacles and challenges, both in life and on the trails. Every run is both ritual and celebration. This is how we choose to spend our time together, and I have never regretted a single run we have shared.