by Belle Piazza
It’s funny the things you remember when you have cancer and the things you don’t. I distinctly remember the day before my colonoscopy. I was mowing our lawn on our riding lawnmower. It was a beautiful sunny fall day and I was over by the dog run as I thought to myself, “there will be life before my colonoscopy and there will be life after my colonoscopy – but it will never be the same”. I don’t know why I thought that. When I was driving down to Portland, a week or so after my scope, to have a rectal ultra sound done to help determine if I had lymph node involvement, I remember telling my friend Gloria, who was driving, “if this kills me, I’ll be more surprised than anyone!”. She encouraged me, being a nurse for close to 30 years, and told me how important positive thinking was.
I don’t know if positive thinking has helped me or not. It didn’t stop the cancer from recurring after my initial treatment and it never gave me normal bowel function again, leaving me with a permanent colostomy. Overall I’d say my cancer journey has been a roller coaster ride, with highs like the Rocky Mountains and lows like the deep blue sea.
Nearing the end of my journey, meaning the cancer is growing and no longer responding to approved chemo treatments, I find myself once again in a place I never anticipated being. Once the cancer returned I suspected it would be a matter of time before I considered clinical trials – so I’m not implying that being in a clinical trial is any big surprise. What surprises me is what I’ve found in this trial – something I’d lost and never expected to find again – I’ve found hope.
I don’t completely understand the science behind the drug I’m taking, but when my research nurse and/or doctor explain it to me, it makes sense. I’m the first human to have ever received this drug. For those who have kids that watch SpongeBob, it makes me think of that episode where SpongeBob says proudly “I’m #1!!!!!”. It’s kind of like that. Logically I tell myself, there is no reason to have hope. Many drugs are tested and fail. This is a phase 1 trial – most don’t make it to phase 2. I know all this – but I still find myself hopeful. Hopeful that the drug will work. Hopeful that I will make medical history. Hopeful that my trial will benefit not just myself but my numerous friends who suffer from this terrible disease.
I can’t help but step back and say why now – after all I’ve been through and all the moments along the way I thought the outcome would be better only to have the rug pulled out from underneath me again and again – why now – have I suddenly become hopeful? And then I shut it down. I step back and linger in that corner of my mind where hope still resides – and I just stay there, because it feels so good. I push aside all logic and negative thoughts. I stay there because it feels good and maybe, just maybe, I’ve learned what our friend and survivor skifletch has said all along; “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
I don’t know what will come of my participation in the clinical trial. A medical miracle, a scientific breakthrough or absolutely nothing. But I do know today, right now – I’ve found something that I’d thought was lost and would never return again. I’ve found hope. And it feels so good.