A year out, we all still miss him, of course. It will be our second Christmas without him. It will be my THIRD Christmas since that "terminal" cancer diagnosis turned everything upside down. Yup. (Some might recall I spent that first Christmas recovering from a cancerous pericardial effusion that nearly killed me.) And last week I got to celebrate my THIRD Thanksgiving since that original cancer diagnosis. Though I still whine and complain mightily about SO MANY THNGS and long for much I don't need, though I miss my dad, though I've had disease progression this year, though my heart aches for recent losses in our lung cancer community, though I am losing friends to cancer and other ailments as I write this, I stand here grateful to be in it, this unruly, emotional, painful, joyful, messy life, even in the midst of the suffering and the loss.
It's Advent for folks who celebrate Christmas. And even for many who don't observe the Christian holiday, in the Northern Hemisphere especially it's still a season of watchful waiting. We grow contemplative, look inward, maybe spend a little bit of extra time in prayerful meditation or staring into the snowfall or firelight. We walk out in the growing solstice dark keeping faith with the universe, with God, that we'll emerge into a growing light. We think of the end growing into the beginning. This year, at least from where I stand today, I get to sit with all those Adventy-solsticey kinds of thoughts, get to give those ideas some time, time I didn't seem to have last year as everything cascaded down around losing a family member.
Part of the watchful waiting for me also involves my upcoming scans. Two days before Thanksgiving, I finished what I hope will be my last round of infusion chemo, at least for the foreseeable future. I am thankful I tolerated the treatments well, with only severe fatigue and mild anemia as the most concerning side-effects, which I am told will disappear once my red blood cell count rebounds. When I have my scans later this month we'll be watching and hoping for a few things: first that the chemo and earlier radiation treatments have addressed and eliminated ALL the disease progression discovered in body and brain last spring, summer, and again this fall; secondly that there is no NEW progression; and finally, in the coming months (and maybe years?) that we can "re-challenge" the disease with lorlatinib (Lorbrena) and that this medicine can hold the disease in check for a good while longer.
I remain hopeful about treatment and lots of other stuff (even the fate of the planet and the human race hellbent on ruining it) in part because being hopeful is just my habit of mind. Also the other option is not tenable. One waits. One is hopeful. In Spanish, "to hope" and "to wait" are expressed using the same verb, esperar – two ideas spiraled around the same little cluster of phonemes, resting in the now, pointing toward the future.