Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

A Toast to Week One


On June 6th, 2008 I became a survivor for the 3rd time!

I had what was hopefully my last round of chemotherapy EVER this past Friday. Dr. Maki said that there is no evidence to show that the chemo is continuing to provide an additional benefit and there is definitely evidence that proves the chemo is starting to have a detrimental effect on my body. I have a CT scan on the 25th of June and provided that the x-ray shows no trace of disease I will once again be released into “watchful waiting” – a period of up to 5 years where one actively monitors the body with the hopes that the disease never returns.

I had been given a “heads up” from Dr. Maki’s nurse the week prior telling me that most likely I would be ending soon. I was actually very grateful for this as the week gave me some time to think and “adjust” to this new way of managing the disease.

I have very mixed feelings about being done with chemo.On the one hand, I no longer have to deal with the side effects and the slow deterioration taken quite a toll and I look forward to the day when I will feel “like me” again.

On the other hand, for the past 16 months, Friday afternoons at chemo have become a very comforting routine for me. The nurses, the phlebotomists and the technicians have all become my friends. They have taken care of me and I have felt very comfortable “actively fighting” my disease.I am not ready to say goodbye to them quite yet. For some reason I feel that this routine has been able to keep the cancer away. If I stop, I have no control over what will happen….and having been down this road two times before, I am a bit too educated to “whoop it up” quite yet. Relapsing is all too familiar to me.

I don’t expect many people to understand why I am not thrilled by the news that, fingers crossed, the cancer is behind me. Many of my friends and family have wanted to celebrate and I have just wanted to sleep and not talk about it. The natural response I get from people is “Congratulations! Let’s Celebrate!” It is both exciting and terrifying.

As I’ve said many times before, cancer is very ironic. The good news is that Dr. Maki is fairly confident that if the cancer comes back, it won’t come back for at least 6-12 months. That is good news for two reasons: 1) It gives me a chance for my body to heal if I do need to undergo chemo for a 3rd time and 2) It allows sarcoma scientists around the world more time to try to find another treatment or ideally a cure.

The bad news is that if it’s coming back, I mentally wish it would come back sooner rather than later. Once you are “in the fight” it is a lot easier to keep going. I had such a hard time starting the chemo process again after I was “clean” for 14 months …I can only imagine how difficult it will be if I make it that far or father this time.

So, what does the “new normal” look like? How do you go about living normally when there is a very real threat that the cancer will come back in the next few years? And because my body has taken quite a toll, it’s not like the news of no more chemo has made me bounce back to my pre-cancer self. It will most likely take months for me to start to feel the way I did before my diagnosis.

As my Doctor wisely said, “You will never make it through 5 years if you don’t make it through Week One”. So, although I don’t want to have a party or celebrate the end of my disease quite yet, I am quietly toasting to Week 1. Let’s hope there are many more cancer-free weeks like this in my future.