Today we head to Arizona for a much needed vacation. For fifteen months we have been struggling with the uncertainty of John's health issues. I could tell the story of how we got to this point: prostatectomy, PSA Numbers rising for no apparent reason, hormone blocking therapies, chemo, radiation. But I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that last week, he started immunotherapy and we have hope beyond anything we've had in the past two years that John will live beyond the statistics that can be found online.
Beyond the medical exhaustion is something more and that is what I want to share.
I have lovingly referred to the man I married 23 years ago as a Velveeta and bacon man. Over the years, when I fixed a meal with a rainbow of colors he wanted shades of yellow and brown. His dreams came true when I left for whatever trip I might take, and I'd find the remnants of the shiny wrapper for the cheese, or a cardboard box just the size of a block, a hint of bacon hanging in the air.
I tell people now how proud I am of my dear husband. We have gone through a great shift in mindset through education and perseverance. Oatmeal, green smoothies, ginger (lots of ginger), no diet coke, less bread, and a healthier husband. We have figured out that food that fuels the body is far better than things that the body has to fight. It's already fighting the big C, why try to arm ourselves against other things.
Evenings and weekends meant social drinking with friends in the days before cancer, before aging, before making fools of ourselves was more important. A friend asked about John recently and in the course of the conversation I blurted out that he isn't drinking. She wanted to know if that was due to the immunotherapy.
No, I said. He stopped before Cancer.
Ginger beer, mocktails, and hibiscus blueberry tea have become the drinks of choice, and not wholly because of the cancer, but because he has looked me in the eye and understands how much it means to me for him to be around a long time. Life has taken on new meaning, and we are mindful of every precious moment.
During the winter months we had some truly dark days. Times when pain and nausea took precedence over everything else. Months when there were two or more doctor's appointments per week, seemed like our vehicle was on autopilot.
At a recent meeting with the oncologist, we learned the value of genetic testing. Without it, John might have begun a very expensive drug that would have no impact on the growing metastases on his bones. Without it, chemo may have been the treatment course to continue. We now have a chance for a drug to help his immune system combat the cancer.
I attended an event with a group of women. Since the Big C came to visit our home, I've been reluctant to do much of anything that involved people I didn't know. I suppose it felt weird to live with this uncertainty and try to act like I did in the befores of cancer, Covid, family deaths.
This particular event, each of us had to talk about some success in our lives. It was the day my husband started this new therapy. When I finished my part, a woman grabbed my arm, quickly said, "My husband has been living with metastatic prostate cancer for 9 years. We need to talk."
My first reaction was that while most people think their journey through this common type of cancer is the same as ours, they really have no idea of the specificity of John's diagnosis: muted CDK-12 gene that most therapies will not even touch. But when I spoke with this veritable stranger I found commonality. And I found something else: Hope. She told me that things are changing so rapidly in these treatments that maybe something will work for 6 months to a year until something else comes along that's better. Her husband has been experiencing that type of hope.
So we leave for Arizona with hiking shoes, layers of clothes, expectations. Our hope is years of travel, celebrations, and time with our kids and grandkids. Oh, and a dash of good health to keep us going.