“My friends, whoever has had experience of evils knows how whenever a flood of ills comes upon mortals, a man fears everything; but whenever a divine force cheers on our voyage, then we believe that the same fate will always blow fair.”—Aeschylus
Joanie had survived the disappointment of cancer coming back again, along with the loss of two-thirds of her right lung and the six-month experimental chemotherapy regimen, and she was entering 2004 with what looked like a clean bill of health.
At her first meeting with Dr. Carson on January 7th, the good news continued. Carson noted, “My impression is that of no evidence of recurrent persistent squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix following treatment with chemotherapy with the Women’s Cancer Center protocol #28. Recommend that she return in three months time for follow-up, at that time she will have a repeat CT of chest, abdomen and pelvis which will be repeated every three to four months for the next two years.”
Dr. Carson was very encouraging, and her encouragement rubbed off on both of us, and we left her office both smiling and walking lighter than ever.
This trip had turned into another one for celebration. You can imagine hearing that her appointments with Dr. Carson were now down to every three months, and that was the schedule for the next two years was enough for us to go to Sally’s immediately after leaving Carson’s office. From the clinic to Sally’s is a short two block walk, and though it was only about 20 degrees outside that day, it didn’t seem cold at all.
When we got there and settled in at the bar, and ordered a glass of wine, we looked at each other and we were both smiling. We sat there talking and thinking about what she had gone through the last year, and now we were looking ahead to a time when we wouldn’t have to make these trips only a few times a year.
Joanie was still wearing a wig, and wasn’t minding it that much now. The news today made her mind it even less. She even told me as we sat there in Sally’s, as soon as she had a reasonable amount of coverage, she would hang the wig up for good. She said she wouldn’t mind it even if it were only a really short butch looking cut. She knew it would come back, and probably be thicker than ever. It did.
We went to dinner that night with Ginny and Ed, and shared the good news with two of the people who had been so close and meant so much to both of us since Joanie’s first diagnosis back in 1996. She also got a chance to see her three-legged friend Piper, who had helped her so much back then. He was always glad to see her.
Joanie and I got up early the next day, and headed back for Bismarck. The trip this time was spent talking about everything she was looking forward to. John Hoeven was running for reelection and that alone would make it a very busy year, there was the building project she was involved in at Trinity Lutheran, and her life wasn’t going to be dictated to by cancer as it had been this last year. She was looking forward to everything coming her way, and I could hear it in her voice as the miles rolled by.
What we didn’t talk about, as if by some silent agreement, was the fact we had heard good news before, only to have it cruelly snatched away from us when we weren’t looking. Today was to be enjoyed, not sullied with thoughts of what has happened in the past. This was her moment, her good news, and she deserved to relish it for as long as she wanted. It became my job to help her do that too.
It was as if that infrequent guest, hope, had moved back in with the promise it would stay longer this time.