Today’s post comes from guest Blogger, Fletcher Summa. Thanks, Fletcher, for sharing your story with us!
I sat in the waiting room on February 8, 2013 in the Cancer Center preparing to tell Dr. Mo that I didn’t want to do this anymore. My treatment was entering the 11th month and my body was bloated and scarred and bore little resemblance to my pre-diagnosis self. I looked around the waiting room and I focused on what I wanted to say to Dr. Mo and settled in to wait for my name to be called. Waiting is something you become very good at as a cancer patient; my mom sat next to me lost in her usual game of Candy Crush Saga on her phone. This situation had been part of my life for almost a year: the two hour trip to Iowa City every other week, wait for a bed, get hooked up to chemo, stay for days, go home, feel awful, get better, then repeat. However, this time I could no longer go in and just face it the way I’ve done in the past.
The chemicals were really starting to take a toll on my body, especially my heart. The methotrexate I was scheduled to take had been cancelled due to my lab results. This meant that I would have only two rounds of treatment remaining—“only” two but it was dependent on the results of my heart scan. Regardless of the result, I planned to tell Dr. Mo that I was done with all treatment.
It all began when I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma on March 21, 2012 and within weeks I began treatment, then on June 21, 2012, I underwent surgery. The surgeon removed the tumor and if the tumor was over 90% dead then I would have a shorter treatment plan; if it was below 90% then the treatment would be more intense. Yet because my heart scan results had not improved I was informed that I couldn’t receive further treatment without risking permanent damage. Though it doesn’t quite sound like it would be, this was indeed good news. This was the day that I waited almost a year for. “No more chemo.” And it was finally over.
I smiled when I heard this news and feelings of joy overwhelmed me. I could get on with my life and not deal with any more side effects. Aside from the doctor appointments every three months, I thought I never had to think about cancer again.
I was wrong.
What I didn’t take into account was just how much this experience had consumed my life. Living and surviving became indistinguishable. Together with the nausea, the doctor visits, the questions from friends and family, the pills and treatments, and the pain, being a cancer patient became who I was. My return to the real world after the chemo was extremely difficult. I simultaneously wanted to talk about it and to NOT talk about it.
Yet life goes on and my life had to continue to move forward. My hair was growing back, I was losing weight and I had more energy than I’d had in a long time. The mindset I had throughout chemo was that each round was a victory and that every small nauseating triumph would accumulate to success overall. And what is cancer but a concentration of painful battles? If I had won against that, then surely I deserved to live without any more inconvenience.
Again, I was wrong.
Without this understanding I might have gone through life thinking that the world owed me something and that every hardship had to be reimbursed. What if I spent the rest of my life asking “why me?” or cursing the wind every time my leg hurt, then there would be no time to appreciate the fact that I made it through the treatment. Sometimes, often times, life is unfair. But that is only part of the picture and a small one at that. Maybe this is the real lesson I learned.
It’s been 29 months since my chemo ended and I’m still not sure I’ve really ever left that waiting room. What remains though after spending so much time waiting and reflecting on my life, is an enormous appreciation for those who supported me throughout this journey. The fact that so many people supported me, including my wonderful family who sat alongside me in the hospital all those days bored out of their minds and not knowing what the future holds. To the doctors and nurses who were able to balance their work responsibilities while being kind and compassionate, proves to me that people are capable of extraordinary acts of kindness and strength. It is because of them that I made it through an otherwise horrific experience, and it is because of them that I appreciate life so much more now.
8 thoughts on “Waiting”
What a beautiful story. Hoping you are well and sending kind thoughts to Dr. Mo! I sure have missed the blogs they are a light in this dark world.
God bless. Your story is truly humbling. Sending good thoughts, energy and love for continued good health and a well lived and long life ahead.
This sounds very similar to my experience. I had osteosarcoma as well. I’m very thankful to have had Dr Mo as my doctor. Having this disease and going through this treatment was by far the worst experience of my life. The second I met Mo, he made me feel better right away. Dr. Mo and Dr. Miller said that they could cure me of this disease and they did. I’ve been cancer free for 13 months and I plan to stay that way. ❤
Thank you so much Fletcher Summa for sharing your story….my husband had a 2 1/2 year bout with Melanoma..Tom passed away on Jan. 14, 1915. His birthday is tomorrow (8/7) and though I still missed him terribly, we will have cake & ice cream to celebrate his 81st year. It’s so good hearing positive stories like Fletcher’s ! Thank you Dr. Moe
for keeping us posted.
Love your story. Dr Mo was my husbands doctor. Mo is a wonderful man and Doctor. My husband had melanoma and passed away July 2014. We were Mo for 5 years. I like hearing a positive story and am so glad you are doing well. Keep up the good work and stay healthy. Thanks for sharing Waiting!!
Well said fellow warrior…fight on!!!!
This was really nice to read…sometimes I feel the same. Hoping you are doing good. I’m trying to keep myself busy and not slowing down one bit. Occasionally I get to go see my daughter bike race around the state and cheer her on. Her boyfriend is a pro racer for Above and Beyond Cancer…I call them both Team Mom. Watching them gives me incentive to keep active too. Enjoy this nice day! Meg
What an inspiring story. This will help all Cancer patients with their journey.