I apologize for taking this long to give an update. I know some of you are wondering what has happened to me. I needed to understand my new status before I shared the good news. I’m learning from my doctor, and my own experience, to be cautious. Caution is a mixed feeling, a “ let’s not get too exited too soon” kind of feeling; or, a “let’s take it easy and take a hold of the present moment” attitude. As of today, I’m learning to have access to the present, the beginning of that profound lesson. It is for this reason that I have the urgent need to express gratitude and share the elation and happiness I feel to be not only alive but also living a full, healthy, life, to be back to living the life I have built over 47 years. I have emerged from months and months and months of living in fear, sadness, and hard busy work to keep myself from falling completely off the cliff, with a renewed sense of urgency.
I’m in remission, it’s official, I’ve finally gotten the word out of my very cautious Bone Marrow Transplant Doctor’s mouth. A fellow South American, my doctor is slightly older than me, speaks with similar laborious English and has, like me, an ironic sense of humor and a cloud of worry that seems to follow him everywhere he walks. These affinities have made our relationship close after the initial, and I imagine common, mistrust between a traumatized patient and a doctor with a mixture of cool and worried demeanor.
My doctor would not give me a straight answer when things were critical, nor when we could finally relax —the PET/CT scan showing minimal, almost invisible, activity that could be part of the healing process, the body as it is so far healing itself, my spleen returning to a normal size. Despite the unnecessary stress and anguish his inability to communicate clearly has caused me, I have learned to understand, accept, respect, and finally, trust, my doctor. The last PET/CT scan is not completely clean but it is showing recovery and giving hope that the body will continue its own healing process without the need of more horrifying and debilitating treatment.
I wanted, and expected, an instant cure after the very aggressive treatment I have gone through. Cure. “ We are going for the cure,” I was told by the oncologist that first treated me. I took the word cure literally, naively and to heart submitting myself passively but courageously to the treatment. Stage 4 meaning nothing. This level of ignorance is of course unacceptable in this day and age but the overflow of information on the Internet was too scary and offered no real options in my situation anyway. I’ve been a painfully slow learner, busy, as I was, and without knowing, fighting for my life.
I have seen a few doctors to explain this to me, finally getting the second opinion I did not have time, energy or encouragement to get when I was first diagnosed. Cure, in regards to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Cancer, is achieved over time. Time, is of the essence, but that is the irony, time is not gold, time is life. And time is all I have (I’m not using the pronoun “we” because I don’t see myself giving overarching pronouncements, about the general meaning of life). I know this awareness may seem childish but since I have been dealing with this disease I have gone through a repeat of childhood and have come out of it fighting desperately for independence as a teenager, finally becoming, whole and beautifully mature.
Remission, then, meaning, to me, a coming to terms with the reality of a life lived in uncertainty and with a renewed and heightened sense of purpose, urgency, happiness, and meaning.
An army of friends and family has assembled on the spot on my behalf. Margarita, my girlfriend in a new, very early relationship, did not run away, choosing instead to put her organizing skills to work in a genuine expression of love and in a great unselfish manner, take care of me. Her friends in Los Angeles, assisting us unconditionally with rides, meals, companionship, information, fun and love. My friends in San Diego, other places in the US, and abroad, have made themselves available in a heartbeat defying the rain, driving distances, busy schedules, some even flying across the US and California, some writing to me every day, to keep me company, to reassure me, to feed me. The students, faculty and the staff in Communication Department at UCSD, for keeping my job and all that a job entails, I can’t thank them enough. Each and every one of you displaying immense and numerous acts of generosity that only a thousand-page book could recount.
And, of course, my heart is filled with gratitude to those of you who have donated funds to sustain me while I healed. This pledge drive, my friends Martha, Adriene and Minda’s brilliant idea, has given me, and my family in Colombia, unimaginable respite. Thank you.
A heart-felt thank you to the Cancer Support Community in West LA where I have spent the last couple of months taking meditation and yoga classes and participating in writing and support groups that have also saved my life. Thank you, thank you, CSC.
To the Shambhala Center in San Diego for the metta, thank you.
My family, who I love, love, love, they too have not missed a beat, thank you.
For every kind word, thought, prayer, smile, wish, anyone has sent my way; for every hue in the sky the universe has allotted me, thank you. Generosity, gratitude, love and beauty, meditation, writing, dancing, music, friendship and community, have been the supportive healing elements of my recovery. This is the humble lesson I can share at this moment. I’m sure there will be more lessons that I’ll be more than happy to share as the gloriously tenuous adventure of my life continues.
Please keep in touch.