Friday, June 18, 2010

Feathers, Hope, and Trust

We're all familiar with the little elephant, Dumbo, and his big ears, right? And do you remember how Timothy, the mouse, gave Dumbo a "magic feather" to give Dumbo the confidence to fly? And Dumbo flew. Then at the worst possible moment Dumbo lost his "magic feather" and with it lost his belief that he could fly. Of course, in the nick of time, Timothy explains to Dumbo that the feather was never magic and that he can fly without it and, of course, Dumbo finds his confidence in himself and flies without the feather.

I think in all of our lives we occasionally have our own personal "Dumbo feathers" that we cling to to give us courage or confidence or reassurance. And, like Dumbo, when we lose those "magic feathers" we can lose our courage or confidence or assurance. Of course, in the end, it often turns out for us much as it did for Dumbo and we realize that we never really needed our "magic Dumbo feathers", or maybe that we did need them at one point but now no longer do. But that doesn't mean that we don't have our moments of panic when we find our "feathers" gone. It doesn't mean that we don't sometimes long to have our "magic feather" back. And it doesn't mean that we don't sometimes go through periods of uncertainty, indecision, and fear without that "magic feather". But ultimately, in the end, I think we all find ways to fly without our "Dumbo feathers", or at least I hope so.

Today I partly lost and partly gave up the most unlikely of "Dumbo feathers", that being my chemotherapy. I met with my doctor up at Mayo Clinic and he went over the results of all my latest tests with me. As of yesterday, my liver is still full of holes but also still clear of tumors. My blood work all looks good. And the tumors in my lungs haven't grown at all. All fabulous news. Then my doctor started talking about my chemo. I've been on this latest chemo since last October and he said that normally the most benefit you're going to get out of most chemo regimens is seen in the first six months. We're on month eight now with my chemo and my tumors are stable but my side effects from the chemo are sort of sucky. Given all those facts and, of course, all sorts of doctor knowledge that I don't have, my doctor suggested a "chemo break". That meaning we would stop my chemotherapy and closely monitor my condition. My doctor's reasoning is that we have probably gotten most of the benefit that we could out of the chemo and that continued use is likely not having any really significant effect on my cancer but it is having a significant effect on how crappy I feel. He also said that he does not believe that stopping this chemotherapy is going to have any effect on my lifespan even if (and it sounded like a pretty significant "if") it had an effect on how quickly I have a recurrence/tumors start growing. That bit is a little harder to explain, but it did make sense. If my tumors start growing in a month or two of being off the chemo my doctors said that it is likely they would have started growing regardless of the chemo. But on the flip side, there is good possibility here that I could go for a good stretch without any recurrence or tumor growth and that could all be time without chemo side effects. And if things start to change and tumors start to grow my doctor still has options for me, more than a few, so it wouldn't be "end game"... at least, theoretically.

But ultimately the choice was left up to me. My doctor would continue the chemo if I said so or he would cancel it if I said so. It wasn't an easy decision and I'm still not sure I made the right one, but today I gave up my "Dumbo feather" and stopped my chemotherapy. I traded in my "magic feather" for hope and trust. Hope that this was the right choice, hope that I can, indeed, fly without it. And trust in my doctor who has never yet steered me wrong. And, of course, that's not to say that I didn't need the chemotherapy to begin with, just that continuing it might be like clinging to a "magic feather".

It is a strange place to be though. Am I in remission? No, not really, I still have a bunch or tumors. It's more like we have scared the enemy into hiding and are now we are hoping that we scared them enough to "keep their heads down" for a long long time but we are also watching and waiting for them to show signs of what their next move will be. And it's a tougher place to be in than I thought it would be. I feel like I should be doing something to actively fight this. I'd rather be active than reactive, but still the plan makes sense.

Waiting is scary, especially without my "Dumbo feather", but even on the rainiest day (and this day is really rainy both emotionally and literally) there is the hope and trust that I will find that I no longer need my "Dumbo feather" and that I can, indeed, fly.


Windchimes said...

Beautifully written, Rebecca! Remember that you are in the prayers of many people and that you are loved! God loves you and your family, no matter what you go through. I think you are unbelievably brave! Cherish the blessings God has given you! May the Great Healer touch you and heal you!