Every three months I have a biopsy to see if the cancer cells are growing... shrinking... have moved beyond the uterus... or have completely vacated it.
I always hope for the later.
But we've been at this for 2 1/2 years now...with little progress of shrinking or vacating... so I started the day in preparation for this biopsy, a little emotional. For me, cancer diagnosis and treatment has been 2 1/2 years of a personal Gethsemane. Every day has been a challenge as I take my daily dose and try to maintain hope and heart towards my desire for motherhood. Some days I've handled it with grace. Often times, I fear I have not.
I started the day playing over the conversation I would have with Dr. Z. When is enough... enough? At what point do we move on to the next step - total hysterectomy? Have we done all that we could do?
It was an interesting dialog that I had with myself in the bathroom mirror. There may have been a few tears shed as the quiet corners of my mind told my heart the answers I have generally feared since I heard that unexpected word, "cancer".
I never feared death. Not once. I only feared it taking my chance of motherhood away.
So after a morning of quiet contemplation regarding our reality... which has really been many mornings regarding reality, I was calm and ready when I had the actually conversation with the doctor. She greeted us in her typical warm and friendly way. She always shakes my hand with an extra pat and looks me in the eye as she asks for the truth of how I'm really feeling. I'm blessed with a doctor like that - one who has impeccable kindness and good bedside manner. She is everything an oncologist should be.
As she reviewed my chart, she hit the high points out-loud. Diagnosed in February 2014 during what was to be of a frozen embryo transfer. 9+ years of infertility in which multiple rounds of IVF and FET have been unsuccessfully pursued. Patient is currently 41 years old. Patient has 8 embryos still frozen, awaiting possible transfer. Since February 2014, lab results, every three months, historically show little-to-no cell shrinkage from treatment, yet at the same time - no growth... yada, yada, yada.
Which is when I quietly interrupted to ask, "Dr. Z - how long do we do this?”
At that, she looked up, kindly tilted her head to one side and said, "JaLae... I've been waiting for that question."
"My job has been to give you as much hope as possible, dealing with the realities before us. In truth, it hasn't gotten better. Yet at the same time, it hasn't gotten worse. I will tell you that in most patients like you, if we see success, it is in the first year. I haven't been able to find a case in any medical research or journals that saw success extending beyond two years...."
I quiet stated, "But we've been at this for 2 1/2. Do you think it's time to move on?"
"If we don't see what we need to see from these lab results - then yes. I think it's time to move on with other, more aggressive, treatment options." was her reply.
And so it is.
And I prepare my heart for what the quiet corners of my mind told it yesterday morning, as I looked myself in the mirror.
Gethsemane is where Jesus suffered. He did it for me - He did it for you. But in suffering for us, He still left us a little portion. For me, the process of losing this particular dream, just happens to be mine.
(Special note: this is not the place to ask if I've thought about adoption or foster care...)