Defeat. I thought I knew what defeat felt like before but I had no idea. Not even close. When the doctor said that he would be unable to proceed with the stem cell transplant, it felt like I had been broken into a million little pieces all over the floor. So many pieces that they would never all be found and there’d always be pieces of me missing. I felt like Humpty Dumpty and I’d never be put back together again. The stormy, thrashing weather on the drive home from Houston after this news mirrored my insides: a torment of tears and lightning pangs of hurt and anger. An inescapable flood of defeat.
I’d initially left my hometown for Houston in a sea of tears as well. Crying because I would be homesick for two months but also crying because I was headed for salvation. Or so I thought. Houston was my promised land. It promised just one more round of hideous chemo and my lifeline: my stem cell transplant. Two more months until I would be able to join the elite circle of cancer survivors and enjoy the rest of my life cancer-free. I was ready to cross my desert and enter Canaan.
But in true Moses fashion, it was not to be. At least this time around it wouldn’t be. Victory had slipped through my fingers the way sand does when you clutch it too hard in your hand. The harder I had tried to hold onto it, the faster it had slipped away. I felt like a failure. I’d failed God, I’d failed my family and friends, and I’d failed myself. I hadn’t tried hard enough and now I was sent back home with my tail between my legs.
My PET/CT scans had shown that although the mass in my left hip had disappeared, the mass in my chest had done the opposite: it had grown. Despite high-dose chemo and my efforts to remain positive, the stupid thing had grown. What the heck?? I was supposed to be in remission and ready for one more round of chemo before my transplant and now I had to go back home empty-handed with nothing to show for it? How was I supposed to face everyone? I’d said my goodbyes, said my ‘I love you’s’, and left everyone with hope and expectancy. How was I supposed to explain why I was back and starting again from square one? This was so unfair.
Now I’m back home and its been a couple of days since this news. I’ve been in hiding and refuse to answer my phone or see very many people. I don’t like to see pity in anyone’s eyes for me or have to explain a hundred times over why I’m back home and not in Houston. Its selfish, I know, but I have to do it or I will go clinically insane. My sanity at this point requires selfishness. I’m now waiting for a panel at MD Anderson to review my ‘aggressive’ case this coming week and make a recommendation as to what type of treatment should be next before trying again for the stem cell transplant. In the meantime, a blood-typing kit has been sent to my only sibling, my little sister, to see if she is my perfect match. A week will tell us whether she is or not. The search for my perfect match has begun.
Oh, the irony. To think that I’ve been campaigning for people to sign up for the bone marrow registry saying that it could have been me that needed a donor when all the while, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, it WAS me. Now it IS me. It feels like a sick joke. Note to el diablo: it is NOT funny.
I’m due back at MD Anderson in about six weeks to re-scan me to see if this upcoming chemo has finally done its job. In a perfect world, my sister is my perfect match, I will be in remission in six weeks, and I’ll be able to get my transplant. But I do not live in a perfect world and although I am optimistic (I really am), I’m also a realist. I’m a realist in that nothing ever happens the way WE want it to, it happens the way God wants it to and His way is never easy.
Although this is one of those major setbacks, I know I have to keep on and keep trying. Life is all one big struggle anyway but its also beautiful, no matter what. Every day that I get to breathe is a gift and I am grateful still. Today my struggle is with cancer, who knows what struggles tomorrow will bring? Everyone has their own desert to cross at one point in their lives and this one is mine. My time is now. Now it IS me.