Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Cleansing Waters and Wildcards

 The MRI machine whirred around me once again. This time to take numerous pictures of my brain. When I saw the radiation oncologist about this previously, the cancerous tumor in my brain had gotten smaller, but the cancer wasn’t dying like we’d hoped. Consequently, the tumor board worried it could grow at any time. Best case scenario the cancer would begin dying and hopefully be gone after a year. Worst case, it would grow, and I would die before ever turning 40.

So, I worried about all of this as the machine tha-whumped and buzzed. Nausea overcame me for a minute—which I’d honestly worried about. For almost two months I’ve thrown up nearly every day. In fact, although I’ve understood mental suffering (when my son died) I’ve never understood what physical suffering was truly like...until now. And I could just imagine the horror of throwing up with my mask on—in the MRI machine.

The music in the room suddenly grew louder. And the words—about when the water finally cleanses you—surprisingly settled everything inside of me. I listened to the ‘60s/‘70s singer and imagined those cleansing waters. What would that even feel like to take a swim and be totally cleansed?

After the techs removed my IV and slid me from the machine, my mother-in-law and I went to the cafeteria.

We quickly ate and ended up pulling out a deck of cards. “Rummy?” I asked, and she nodded.

It quickly became apparent that since our last trip to the hospital my mother-in-law has become a card shark! I began desperately wishing for a wild card. Why doesn’t regular rummy have wilds? I could just pull that one special card from the deck and finally have a chance of winning! I actually looked up wild cards the other day. It meant a lot more than I realized. It can also be someone who is picked to win a contest by unusual means or for something extraordinary. This reminded me of cancer. I so wish God would pick me to be a wildcard. I didn’t just need to draw one. Things are so desperate, I need to BE the wildcard.

We went to my appointment after that—to review the results of the MRI. First the nurse practitioner came in and helped us. Then a random doctor I’ve never seen came in. He reviewed the scans over and over. I didn’t know until later that he’s a radiologist. He was very cryptic as he continued zooming in on the scans. “I think it’s showing some improvement. I’m gonna go get your regular doctor....”

So, my mother-in-law and I waited. I kicked my legs just a little bit. It’s so hard being patient, waiting for scans to be taken, then waiting to hear good or bad news. Like someone said, I really am living scan to scan right now.

My regular radiation oncologist finally came in, reviewed the scans, sat back, and viewed the scans again. My mind wandered. Why had the first doctor left the room like that? Maybe it was bad news. I suddenly became too scared to ask about the cancerous tumor. “Do you see the second tumor?” I asked. “The one that isn’t cancer?”

“I don’t see a second tumor at all. And it wouldn’t have just disappeared. That means you’ve never had a second tumor....”

But I’d had multiple doctors (while I was staying as an inpatient in 2020) tell me there was a second tumor.

“In fact I don’t...”

“What do you see?” I asked.

“Well, here’s your brain from November.” She pointed little things out that are specific to me. “And here’s your brain today. There’s no cancer, Elisa. Your cancer free.”

She said some other things about how I still have cancer in my back, neck, and hip. But I really wasn’t listening anymore, because I was so stunned. “But tumors in the brain can be stubborn—especially melanoma,” she said. “This is really, really good news.”

I couldn’t help it. I stood up and hugged my mother-in-law. She looked so happy, hearing the news and beaming. Then I turned to the doctor—AND I hugged her too (mask and all)!

My appointment ended, and I went and told all of the nurses right outside of the room. Then, at the front desk, I told all the receptionists! I ended up telling several other people on the way out. I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “My brain is cancer free!” 

It seemed like some unattainable miracle. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I’m so grateful to everyone who prayed for me. And I’m so grateful to God.

I still have such a long journey ahead of me. The immunotherapy is really hard to endure. It’s unreal what it’s doing to my body. But the fact that both radiation and immunotherapy have helped eradicate the cancer from my brain, gives me hope that it can work in the rest of my body.

I’ve had so many doctors tell me I only had two years to live from November 2020. But yesterday, two doctors gave me a completely different prognosis. They gave me hope.

I’m crying as I write this because I can’t believe how fortunate I am. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know it holds a longer life than I previously anticipated. I got home and told my family, and my little girl cried and hugged me. As I saw the joy in their faces, that was worth more to me than anything. This does feel like a miracle—I think it kind of is. I kept wondering why God would allow this to happen. Maybe it’s so I could realize how much He loves each and every one of us—and so I could share that with everyone I know.

I am the luckiest. 

So, I’m continuing these grueling treatments, but I’ll get more scans in three months. Maybe God did pick me to be a wildcard. I sure hope so.