I love reading, and mystery novels are my favorite genre. Trying to figure out “who did it” is a fun challenge, but what I especially love about mysteries is that they almost always have a strong plot line and a definite conclusion. By the end of the book the mystery has been solved, all questions have been answered, and all the loose ends are neatly tied up. I can close the book with a sigh of satisfaction and move on to another story. Which, in my opinion, is just how it should be.
Sadly, real life rarely works out that way. Real life tends to be messy and confusing, with lots of loose ends that may or may not be tied up eventually, and problems that can go unresolved for years. Reality doesn’t always provide the clear beginning, middle, and end that our favorite stories deliver. And sometimes our troubles drag on for so long that we find it hard to believe they’ll ever be over.
When we met with the oncologist after my husband’s cancer diagnosis, he told us the schedule for the chemo treatment would be an infusion every three weeks for eighteen weeks. I went home and dutifully marked our calendar for each treatment, even writing in “done with chemo!” on the last date. But when I mentioned this to the oncologist at our next visit, he told me that chemo doesn’t work that way. My husband would have his blood tested before each infusion to make sure he was strong enough to go through the treatment, so there might be times when we would have a delay for a week or so. He said that the chemo schedule was only a suggestion, and that we would take the whole thing step by step, depending on my husband’s reaction.
It turned out he was right, because my husband actually finished chemo a bit earlier than they had predicted, and we were especially thrilled when early tests showed that he didn’t need the major surgery that sometimes follows. Unfortunately, later tests showed he did need two surgeries, and both of them resulted in longer hospital stays than anyone expected. What should have been a nine-month course of cancer treatment stretched into a fourteen months, partially due to Covid restrictions. And somewhere during all that mess, I learned to stop looking for a definitive schedule and to simply take each day, and each test/treatment/procedure as it came.
Which may explain why I’m having trouble accepting that, as far as we know, my husband is now in remission. I had thought that the end of his cancer treatment would feel like a victory, with my husband and I toasting each other over a bottle of champagne and exclaiming “It’s over!” Part of the problem is that cancer doesn’t really work that way, because it’s a sneaky disease that has a habit of rearing it’s ugly head when we least expect it. My husband will be closely monitored in the upcoming months to make sure all is well, and I know we will be nervous before each and every test and scan.
But mostly, the problem is that my husband’s battle with cancer didn’t end with a victorious “bang.” It has simply wound down, slowly, and on an unpredictable schedule of its own. And it’s taking both of us a while to give ourselves permission to believe that the worst is truly behind us. But that’s okay, because we’ll get there eventually, the exact same way we got through his treatment: one step at a time.