I spent almost five hours Tuesday at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for my bi-monthly MRI scan and doctor’s appointment. The news was just as good as it was back in January: No recurrence of tumor, no other changes, and I appear to be good to go for quite some time. My doctor — George Bobustuc — remains optimistic that the Temodar chemotherapy capsules that I’m taking five days each month will be effective in keeping the cancer in check for the indefinite future (at least 12 to 18 months). He said only about 1 in 4 patients with GBM tumors respond this well to the standard treatment regime. Many of the others, by this point in their treatment, would be forced to try other medications, move to experimental approaches in clinical trials or face the prospect of more surgery. Not me. Nearly eight months into my diagnosis, I’m still putting one leg ahead of the other and moving steadily down what looks like the happy “long-term survivor” trail. That means I could wind up in the small percentage of folks who live with this disease for as many as five, 10 or even 15 years. Sure, that prognosis could change at any time — but I am still going to count my blessings while they last.
Speaking of blessings, this ordeal has taught me a lot about something that comes naturally to most people: How to pray. How to make it about ‘listening’ instead of ‘asking.’ When I’m getting stuffed into that MRI tube like some sort of hot dog or promotional T-shirt that’s about to be shot into a crowd of spectators at the Brain Tumor Destiny Bowl game, I’ve learned not to pray for any particular outcome. To me, asking for “no recurring brain tumor” is about as crass as asking for a million bucks. It seems kind of selfish and reduces what is supposed to be sacred to the level of a commercial transaction. I think lots of people make that mistake when they approach other important areas of life as conditional transactions: (ie., “I’ll be good, IF…” or “I’ll love you…IF”).
So instead of asking for stuff, I just pray for the ability to understand and deal with whatever outcome presents itself. Once that prayer gets answered, it makes the clang-bang-boom inside the MRI tube a whole lot less scary. Then when the particular outcome happens to be positive — like it was again for me on Tuesday — it’s like swimming in gravy.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.