I'm on the bus right now headed back to Ithaca as I type this. I opened Spotify to put on some tunes while I found my way through how I would express the thoughts I have going on in my head and I couldn't think of what I wanted to listen to. I really wanted to listen to something but nothing came to mind. Like nothing. It was really weird. I just stared at the screen and then I thought of Men at Work Business As Usual and thought "What?! This is what I want to celebrate remission with?!?" So I thought about that.
So yeah, after nine and a half years (nine years and nine months actually) I am in remission. Dr. Kemeny immediately said I can have my, Hepatic Artery Pump aka the Kemeny Pump removed. When the pump is removed, it can never be installed again, so there's a risk. I asked what the odds of recurrence are and she said something along the lines of very, very low. Highly unlikely. And she immediately followed it with a story about a patient of hers who had a recurrence in his liver five years after his pumped was removed. She laughed as she told me because it was so absurd that it even happened. I essentialy have as much chance of a a cancer diagnosis as you do. And Americans have a one in four chance of being diagnosed with cancer. What's different for me is that if I have the pump removed and then I have a recurrence and it's in my liver, I won't have the option of the Kemeny Pump, the most direct way to attack liver tumors.
Before I met with her, I was talking to guy who went a year without recurrence and now he's back for treatment for a few inoperable tumors. Talking to him was easy because he's clear that any time he has now, one year or twenty years, it's all bonus. Because it is. I suppose any time on earth for anyone is bonus time, but you just tend to be aware of it more frequently when you've been faced with the high probability of death. What wasn't easy a little later in the day was sitting just feet away from a few folks sitting together trying not to cry, barely able to take their eyes off the floor, let alone look at each other. You can always tell when a family is at Memorial Sloan Kettering for the first time. Most of us looked like that. Awestruck, heart-broken and terrified. When I made eye contact with two of the three who were even willing to look up from the floor, they quickly looked away. I made myself available to talk with them because I wanted them to know the suffering can go away or be greatly reduced but it was clear they just didn't have it in them. I get it. It's really hard for most folks to talk with people when they're anxoiusly awaiting the doctor's prognosis. God bless em.
So, for a few years now I've been chewing on whether our not to remove the pump once I'm in remission. Naturally I want this thing out of my body. And my highest priority is the two kids in my life I want to be around for and I don't like the idea of reducing those odds. I could also wrap myself in bubble wrap every time I go outside or simply never leave the house. I told her I'd think about it, but at the moment my loudest thought is to remove it and move on. To walk away from the pump maintenance that's required of me every eight weeks. It's a lot to think about and I'm in no rush. I've just been told it's highly likely that I won't be dying of cancer anytime soon.