Today is Christmas.
I know this seems at odds with the date. This calendar confusion is due, no doubt, to atmospheric irregularities and astronomical anomalies appropriate to this season. And it arrived this morning without warning or even expectation at, of all places, the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Dennis had his blood drawn yesterday in preparation for his quarterly consult with his doctors. Phlebotomy can be tricky, and we await the results of these tests with the anticipation and dread of the condemned awaiting the verdict of a jury that is still out.
Waiting has not gotten easier, no matter how many times we have been through the drill. It is interesting how a number or two can determine the direction of one’s future.
But today, there were glad tidings. Dennis’ lab results showed a substantial drop in the Cancer Antigen-Gi (Ca 19-9). The actual number is 31…well within the parameters of normal (anything below 37 is considered normal). And the Carcinoembryonic Ag (CEA) has fallen from 3.1 to 2.6. I don’t have a clue as to the chemistry involved in these tumor markers. I only know these are indicators that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of recurrence at this time.
We are overwhelmed. Being stunned and light-headed prevented me from singing “boopita boopita.” Dennis was relieved for that, but he was as brain-tased as I was.
Without functioning neurotransmitters, we were unable to string two consecutive meaningful words together. I personally wished that a thought bubble would appear above my hair expressing intelligible expressions of gratitude. But alas, nothing danced in my head…not even sugar plums. (I thought this a good sign.)
Both Dr. Mulvihill and Dr. Jones were as euphoric as we are with the news. Dennis called it “controlled giddiness.” But I didn’t see much control. Dr. Mulvihill said, “Dennis is cancer-free, as far as we can tell.” And Dr. Jones said that even though we are six weeks shy of January 31st, we have officially reached the 2-year anniversary of the Whipple. This represents a major shift in the statistical specter.
In a flagrant departure from clinical decorum, there were embraces and celebration and hearty exchanges of “Merry Christmas!”…and tender hearts.
We can scarce wrap our minds around the moment, but our hearts embrace it. This is the season of miracles, not necessarily guarantees. But we ask for nothing more.
There is no irony in the timing. It is, after all, Christmas. Perhaps the miracle in Bethlehem two millennia ago neutralizes the odds and levels the playing field. Perhaps the angels that stood guard then watch over us still. I will take it.
I want to ignite hearth fires wherever there is darkness, and sing Noel in Alfalfa decibels, radiantly bellowing good tidings to all, without the least degree of harmony. I will “Gloria” and “Hallelujah” with every choir, hark with each herald angel, eat porridge and carol and go “a-wassailing” at all the thresholds in all the world. And then I will collapse in sweet exhaustion and rest with “ye merry gentlemen.”
Adversity is enlightening. To “be still and know” brings wisdom and healing – two essential by-products of tribulation.
We are survivors.
Merry Christmas to our angels and loved ones.