Today is 6 weeks since my surgery. Physically, that means I’m healed. Mentally, it means so much more.
My surgeon told me I would be healed in 4-6 weeks. What that means is that tissue has started to incorporate the mesh into my body and the incision is a securely closed scar. It means that I am no long at risk of popping a suture. It means that I can start to resume a normal life.
Start to resume.
It does not mean I am totally back to normal. I am still in a healing process that is beyond the surgery. My muscles are adjusting, my range of motion is increasing, but I am still limited. I can do some warrior yoga poses now and quicken my walking pace, but runs are still 6 more weeks away, as is any attempt at a routine yoga class. Cycling is on hold for now too, as is lifting anything more than 10 lbs. After that 12 week marker I’ll be able to resume more movement as long as it doesn’t require quick, hard action from my right side. Think of someone throwing a ball and saying “think fast!” and having to grab it with my right hand. I can’t do that. Yet.
Which is why I’ve set the personal goal of learning how to play tennis. Tennis is pretty much the antithesis of what I’m supposed to be doing right now, especially since I’m right-handed and the tumor was on my right side, so I think the day I can play tennis is the day I’ll be fully healed. Apparently that is a 9-12 month goal.
I had my last doctors appointments on Thursday (for now). Four appointments in two days, I covered everything from Physical Therapy to a chemo talk with the sarcoma expert to what the eff is the sudden rash that showed up and how to get rid of it. It was exhausting, emotionally draining, and, in the end, wonderful. The odd rash that showed up was a delayed reaction at 5 weeks to the glue – strange to everyone who saw it – and is going away with the strong cream the dermatologist gave me. My PT was thrilled at my range of motion and was as happy to give me some yoga to work on as I was to be able to do some yoga.
The sarcoma expert and I talked about the decision to not have radiation or chemo, why chemo would be the choice in the future but why we should avoid it, and the idea of talking to a familial cancer specialist. Chemo is not as effective on synovial sarcomas as it is on other types of cancers, and it could actually give me a different kind of cancer in the process. It’s not worth it for someone my age who had the surgical results that I had. According to a metric devised by some doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I have an 80-90% chance of staying tumor-free. That is fantastic news. Of course it could always come back, and in more places than just its original home, but at least the odds are in my favor. It’s most likely to recur in the first 3-5 years after surgery, hence the close monitoring. I have a follow-up MRI/CT appointment in January. At this or my follow-up PT appointment, I will see a familial cancer specialist. Since my grandfather also had a sarcoma, it’s possible I have a gene that means I’m more prone to getting cancer. We will discuss genetic testing to see if I have it; if I do, I’ll have to be tested for all kinds of cancers for the rest of my life. I’ll deal with that when I need to.
For now though, I am free. I can leave Vermont, I can get on a plane, I can get a job, I can move on with my life. This is a momentous mental shift. For months I have been waiting – waiting to find out what I had, waiting to schedule a surgery, waiting to heal. Even before the waiting began was the decision to return to the United States to deal with Tristen. Ever since he first appeared 7 months ago, my life has been dominated by Tristen. And now he is gone, really gone, and my life is mine again.
Vermont was the best place to go through all of this. The support from my family has been incredible, the tranquility of the setting perfect for healing, and the doctors and hospital experience at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center the best I could have ever hoped for. And in the grand scheme of life, the three months I spent here dealing with my sarcoma will seem like the blink of an eye. But I will forever be grateful to everyone here. Thank you for getting me through this.