In Latin, summa ope means “whatever it takes.” I decided yesterday that’s my new motto. Bottom line. When I roll those words around in my mind, I feel a steely resolve assemble inside me like scaffolding. On the outside I may look a bit worse for wear, but deep down, I feel like a seven-foot tall Viking swinging a bloody axe.
Two weeks ago I was driving along in my car and the phone rang. I stopped at a red light and watched a gang of overweight, red-faced tourists pedal past my bumper on rental bikes. I pushed a button on the steering wheel and a voice floated out of my speakers. It said, “There is cancer in your brain.”
I hung a left and headed for home. Strangely enough, this news didn’t come as a complete shock. I’d been picking up weird signals—I actually kind of expected to hear something along these lines, though I can’t explain how. I guess if you are really able to tune into your body, it finds a way to let you know. However it happened, I’m grateful.
I met with a radiation oncologist a few days later. He said 10 treatments should do it. I was only a tiny bit terrified because they told me I couldn’t have both radiation and chemo at the same time. I need my chemo. I mean, the last time I went off it for a week, the wheels fell off and I landed in the hospital.
So, I decided I’d have a long talk with my cells. They’re inside me, they should do what I tell them to. I figured it was worth a try. I said, “Cells. Listen up. You bad ones especially. Now I’m going to need you to chill out for a bit. JUST CHILL. Give me two weeks, you jerks. I mean it!” I was very firm. And I meant what I said.
Yesterday was my last treatment. My best friend came along. She handed me a brain-shaped piece of coral. I squeezed it during my last zap and then we went out for Slurpees. (For the brain freeze, get it?) My doctor is optimistic. He said the success rate for stuff like this is around 60% and anyway the radiation must be working on some level or I would be experiencing new neurological symptoms. The best part of the story is that despite all my best efforts with the Penguin Cold Cap system, I’m going to lose my hair after all. Ha! Good one, universe!
Moving forward I’ll get scans every three months and I’ll be on an Alzheimer’s drug called Namenda for six – it’s been shown to protect against memory loss in patients who have undergone whole brain radiation. The only side effect of all these brain zaps is that human voices and music have taken on a mechanical, robotic tone. It’s like Daft Punk up in here all the time. I don’t really mind it. It adds a bit of interest to the boring stories people tell. All in all, it wasn’t so bad. It seems my cells actually behaved themselves and it was kind of nice to experience something with a beginning, a middle and an end for a change. If I’m lucky, this stage IV stuff will go on and on and on and on . . .
Like I said, Summa ope. Whatever it takes.