That was a crazy spring and summer. Shortly before I learned about the tumor, while it was growing uncontrolled and causing lots of confusion and erratic behavior, I planned a trip to climb San Gorgonio, the highest mountain in southern California at 11,500 feet. It was late March and the mountain was covered in deep snow. It’s a pretty serious climb in those conditions; not to be overdramatic, but people have fallen to their deaths in the area. I don’t actually remember planning the trip, but I pieced together the events later. I had bought some expensive new equipment from REI, packed my bag, strapped on snowshoes, crampons and an ice axe, and on my day off I marched out the front door and announced to Sayer that I was headed for the mountain. As I exited the house, I was absolutely overcome with exhaustion, and went back inside for a quick nap, which turned into a long sleep. I forgot all about the planned trip until, several weeks later, after I had been in the hospital and learned I was sick, I came home to find some of the new equipment I had bought, and had no idea where it came from. Sayer filled me in on the attempted trip, which I didn’t remember. I later found the backpack I’d been planning to take in the closet. It was full of gear, but did not contain a map, a compass, hat or gloves (it was well below freezing on the mountain), food or water. I shudder to think what would have happened had I gotten halfway up the mountain (and almost surely lost) before realizing that I was missing those items.
Not long after that I went into work one morning and found no one else in the office; the lights were off, there was no coffee in the pot, no music playing. I sat at my desk for a few minutes before calling Sayer. “I’m confused,” I said, and explained the situation. She informed me that no one was there because it was 11 o’ clock at night. “Stay there, I’ll come and get you,” she said, but I was already driving home. I somehow arrived safely, and the next morning Sayer told me that my doctor had called and said I would die if I didn’t go to the hospital. No doctor had actually called, but it wasn’t far from the truth that I would likely have died fairly soon.
Everything that happened at the hospital that week was a blur; I learned about the tumor, was told by a very insensitive doctor that based on the type of cancer I had, I probably also had AIDS (I didn’t), had a needle tapped through my skull to take a brain biopsy, met my oncologist, learned that I really liked narcotics, and started chemotherapy. All while I was completely unable to understand the situation, or to differentiate between reality, dreams, and hallucinations.
Over the next few months, the treatments I received eliminated all the tumors in my brain and forced the cancer into remission. I spent most of the summer either in the hospital or at home recovering, but it was certainly worth it. Unfortunately as the cancer treatments were winding down, I developed a blood clot in my leg that traveled to my lungs and became a pulmonary embolism. That condition has given me a lot of problems, but hopefully I will recover fully from it as well.
I the past two months, all the tests of my blood, spinal fluid and bone marrow have shown no abnormal cells. Although I wold love to be jumping for joy over ‘beating’ cancer, I also have a lot of anxiety because lymphomas have a very high rate of recurrence. I’m still receiving treatments in order to reduce the odds of recurrence; next week I’ll get another shot of a chemotherapy drug in my spine. It’s a very strange feeling to be so happy to be in remission but so nervous about the future.
My body was beaten up pretty bad by the chemo and everything else, but I’m feeling much better now, and Dr. X says my blood counts are almost normal again. New hairs seem to be sprouting on my bald head, and I’m (slowly) working my way back into mountain climbing shape. My big hope is that I’ll be ready for sledding, snowshoeing, skiing and adventuring with Sayer and Gromit this winter. I didn’t get to do much hiking or any kayaking this summer, so I’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.
Although the whole year has been interesting, to say the least, the most exciting thing to happen to me was on June 1st, the day I got engaged to Sayer. We’re looking forward to a fall wedding next year. As I think about our future together, I can’t help but also look back at the past few months and the challenges we’ve been through. We’ve definitely proven that we can survive anything together. And while I’m confident that we can handle anything that comes our way, I really hope that next year will be a little easier than this year!