For the final #braintumorthursday of Brain Tumor Awarness Month #BTAM, after outlining this past year’s surgery and treatment adventures, I’m reflecting on my feelings toward all of these steps along the way. Or, more accurately, on the sum of the parts. I can start by saying that I’ve passed two more milestones in the week since my last post. Since surgery in September 2015, I’ve been having an MRI scan every three months. My scan immediately after surgery showed some tumour residue cells remaining after surgery. This past week I received results of my second clean scan in a row, showing no tumour cells and “no other irregularities”. Good to know.
The second milestone I’ve passed is my last round of six months of follow-on oral temozolomide treatments, post radiation.
My reaction to these milestones taught me another little life lesson. I have a pretty stable, middle-of-the road personality, in general. My highs are not mountains and my lows are not deep. I’ve been classified a “thinker” rather than a “feeler”. I think this has helped me in all the things I’ve done this past year, and there have been many times someone has complimented me on my strength in the face of it all, and while I deeply thank that person for the sentiment, I always think “I’m just focusing on taking it day by day and not being dramatic, I’m not sure that’s worthy of such praise!”.
A funny think occurred to me, though, with this undeniably good news the past week. I didn’t feel all that excited. I really didn’t. People ask, “oh, you must be so relieved, you must be so happy,” and I say yes and thank you, but again, inside I’m thinking, “What is wrong with me? I don’t feel like throwing a party over this, am I a robot???”
Case in point: when I received my last MRI scan results, my oncologist stepped in the room and reported they were not good, that the scan looked much worse than three months ago. He took care to emphasize that he felt this report may be in error, and he wanted us to wait while he got in touch directly with the imaging department. Thirty minutes later, he returned to say the scan was clear, and that there had been a paperwork mix-up. I felt the same, both conversations. At first I thought, “Okay, we know things could worsen, we’ll figure out what comes next.” Then when he came back with the good news, I thought “Okay, well that’s this scan down, good.”
No doubt, part of this is managing expectations, and living with fear of recurrence. I don’t think I can ever again sit in a doctor’s office and tell myself the worst case is impossible. But I also realized that there’s nothing wrong with me, I just don’t get too high or too low. It’s funny, actually, the juxtaposition, when I saw that the two sides of the same trait are perceived so differently. When I am stoic in the face of adversity, I am being strong and inspiring. When I am calm in receiving good news, I wonder what’s wrong with me!
So, my goal this week is to give myself permission to rejoice and celebrate. But only as much as it feels sincere; I don’t feel pressured to over-celebrate, because I know my emotional reactions are appropriate for me, and are also what get me through the tough times on an even keel.
Thanks to everyone who has participated in raising awareness of brain tumors in Canada and the US this month, from social media advocates and bloggers, to people who are getting out to walks and events, and all of the terrific organizations that work to raise awareness and support researchers, and the researchers and clinicians working in this area. #BTAM