After my first round of chemotherapy in October, my Leukemia went into remission. Now, I’m on a course of treatment called “consolidated chemo,” which is a course of an additional 4 rounds of chemo. Why do more chemo if the cancer is in remission? Because, leukemia is “an aggressive disease.” And, at the end of the five rounds, there is a significant chance that the cancer will, or can, come back. That’s where the bone marrow transplant option comes in.
With the transplant, the doctors will ultimately nuke my immune system to smithereens, and then introduce a new immune system, potentially that of my brother if he is a match, or that of a stranger from the donor registry. This process has a 50/50 mortality rate. And then you have the risk of something called graft versus host disease.
You know when you hear about organs being rejected by someone’s body? Well, this would be the new immune system rejecting me, as I am the foreign body to it. This complication can have no side effects, minimal ones like a rash, or more complex ones like diabetes or death.
In the end, I will either chose to stop after these chemo rounds and see if my body can resist whatever cancer may still be left, or I will chose bone marrow transplant. This is what I’ve meant when I’ve said here that eventually I’m going to have to make a choice that my life will depend on.
A friend told me recently that there are three categories of everything: my business, their business, and G-d’s business. I don’t know how to make a decision like this – therefore, it’s G-d’s business. The result, the outcome, is G-d’s business. However, I have some problems with G-d’s plans.
People have been talking with me about a benevolent Higher Power, a course that wants the highest good for me and all those involved. And, truly, I believe this. I believe in a Universe that wants my greatest happiness and good. The problem is … I’ve seen how that good looks sometimes.
My friend Aaron who died of an overdose earlier this year. He needed to go back, he needed to go home, was what I was told in my anguished meditation on “WHY.” My friend’s adult son recently died from health complications. He had addiction issues, and she felt too that it was simply more compassionate to let him go than to let him struggle. Another friend recently lost her baby in the second trimester, and I can see how, with the surrounding circumstances, disturbing as this is, perhaps it was for the “greater good.”
So, see, this is my problem. That sometimes the ultimate and highest good of everyone involved looks like death.
And I have a problem with that.
As I’ve said here before, I don’t feel done. But, as was written in the Lance Armstrong book, his doctor said that sometimes it's the most active, want-to-live people who don’t make it through cancer, and the ornery curmudgeons who eek on through and make it to a full-length life. It doesn’t matter, this seems to say, what kind of attitude the person has – it’s a crap shoot.
I don’t entirely believe that. I don’t really believe that at all. I do still believe that my aching, pulsing desire to be and stay alive can be my anchor to this world. I do still believe that I have so much more to give and do that it would be the crime of the century to cut my time here short.
But, what do I know. I don’t. Like us all, I’m in the uncertainty of what will happen, and I desperately want to know – Will I die? Will I make a choice that will lead me toward or away from death?
A friend told me, Hey Molly, none of us get out of this alive, and gee whiz, yes, that’s true, we all have a 100% mortality rate and all approach zero at the end of the game, but, will this kill me? I have no idea.
I have hopes, and wishes, and a cat that is currently curled sleeping in my lap on a blue-sky autumn day. But the outcome is not my business. It’s just not. I can look at the losses I listed above and not want any of them to come to pass, and yet know the good, or the release, that came out of the tragedy.
Do I believe somehow that my death would be like that? Fuck no. I am not in anguish, people. I mean, I believe too that some of this came about as a result of a life not fully lived, and that caused me anguish – but aren’t I learning… doesn’t that count? Will it?
What is my business then? Well, the reality is that I don’t have enough information. That there simply isn’t enough to make any decision right now. We don’t know if my brother is a match, so I don’t have to decide right now. If a match comes up, the reality of the choice becomes more imminent. But right now, I have nothing to do but get up, wash up, and go get some blood drawn. Though my cat will not appreciate the interruption.