When Cancer Returns

Spinning Carnival Ride

The doctor’s eyes shifted slightly when he looked at me during the meeting following my scan. I knew.

And I knew immediately.

In the scan following my initial surgery, there were tiny, tiny spots in my lungs, as well as one in the T-11 vertebra. Too tiny to biopsy. So tiny the first radiologist said nothing. Possibly just part of my body.

In a scan just before Christmas, the spots on my lungs had grown and changed.

To be or Not to be

The tilt-o-whirl ride started when I was referred to a surgeon. He spoke positively about resecting the lung spots, although we might have to wait since they are so tiny that there is a risk of not getting all of the cancer — don’t want two surgeries on the same lung. My surgeon wanted to get a closer look at the spot on the T-11 vertebra, so I went for a spine MRI.

The surgeon called the next day. “I think the spot on your spine is cancer. That means we will not do surgery, and I’ll be referring you back to your oncologist.”

Death TarotBasically, if it’s in my spine, I’m screwed. The subtext is this, “Lady, I’m not doing surgery. I mean, why would we put you through it?”

Okay, so that afternoon in my office, I began thinking — endgame. What do I want the last year or so to look like?

At home in the early evening, my oncologist called and we talked as he looked at the new scan. He doesn’t think the spot on the spine is cancer. We have a long talk. A day later, after having multiple radiologists compare scans, they decide that it is not cancer since it has not changed in size or shape. It may be a bone island.

So. Now, I’m not dying. (Okay, we are all dying. But I don’t need to make immediate plans).

It’s the feeling of being handed the Death card. You hold it. You look at it. And this time, someone takes it back.

I then did the most logical thing in the world.

I got on a tall ship and headed to sea.

The Royal Clipper, sailing through the Windward and Grenadine islands.
The Royal Clipper, sailing through the Windward and Grenadine islands. Photograph by Ann Fisher.

Here is the review my trip on the Royal Clipper, one of the Star Clipper line.

Cancer Update

March 6, 2016: Great news! My CT scans are stable, so no treatment planned — instead, I get to travel this summer. Woohoo!


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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*** Image of the carnival at night is from Pixabay.

Ann Fisher

All Hallows Day

 

I took this picture in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston in March of 2008.

I had an assignment for a photography class, and my daughter, Catherine, agreed to be my subject. Bribery with Italian cream cake was involved.

Girl covered in a black veil, Glenwood cemetery
Memento Mori, Glenwood Cemetery

Drew was with us in the cemetery. It was a bright day, and light filtered through the trees. He followed as I shot, through the light and shadow patchwork — from this monument to that, this idea and then another.

There is a later photograph of Drew that afternoon with the sheer black veil covering him; he wore a broad grin, incongruous with his black veil. He was a silly man. Catherine sat snuggled next to him. Hard drives are fragile things and that picture exists now only in my mind.

I give you another image.

Drew on the floor next to the hospital bed in our room at 2 a.m.. Dementia was setting in, and he had fallen getting out of the bed on his way to an imaginary meeting.

While he weighed less than 100 pounds, I could not lift him. At that moment, Catherine came in on cat paws, a flutter of light nightgown. We sat on either side of him and snuggled him close, the three of us together for the last time.

Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne, Still Life—Memento Mori, 17th century
Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne, Still Life—Memento Mori, 17th century

 

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Ann Fisher