This is life after cancer. Sitting together in the sun and feeling joyful just because. Going out for breakfast and catching a glimpse of normal on the horizon. Crying at night after an ordinary day because the exhaustion and the worry and the relief are still there in every moment. Hearing of someone else’s tough times and feeling it in your gut because you know, now, what it’s like.
For Scott, there’s no more surgery, no more treatment, no more cancer. The tumour was lodged at the base of his intestine, that final frontier for waste; the rectum. The doctors showed no mercy. His rectum was blasted with radiation, poisoned with chemotherapy and then cut out entirely. In the language of modern cancer treatment, the procedure was a success. No rectum, no tumour, no cancer and no chance of it returning. If he gets cancer again, for a third time, it will be another cancer altogether, cos this one is not coming back.
On the other hand, that most essential of organs – the rectum – is not coming back either. For Scott, life without cancer now means life without a rectum. Life without cancer is mostly joy, tinged with the bittersweet. It’s relief and gratitude and appreciation of the little things.
Life without a rectum though, is just crap. We’re told it gets better, with time. For now though, life without this small, yet under-appreciated organ is uncomfortable, inconvenient and undignified. It’s hour after lonely hour on the toilet, wondering if it’s safe to leave. It’s the clenching of teeth and scrunching of eyes and squeezing of pelvic floor through wave after wave of urgency and no rectum to manage the flow. It’s all day every day near a toilet, without spontaneity or plans or leaving the house. It’s living in the moment because right now it’s good and later it might be completely miserable.
That’s just what I see from the outside. I’ve watched Scott do battle with his body these last few months and I’ve been in awe of his strength and in despair for his suffering. I’ve floated high on the cloud of euphoria that came with the end of treatment and sunk deep into the realisation that, actually this is just the beginning. A lesser man would have collapsed under the weight, I’m sure of it. But he is weightless, existing in the present moment, and able to let go of the moment that just passed. He’s like a leaf spinning and battered against the rocks in white water, then moments later floating in the sun in still water. Me? I’m back at the rapids, checking the weather and rearranging the rocks.
Today is a good day. It’s sunny and we’re having an unexpected holiday. There’s an ensuite with a spa, the kids are doing backflips in the pool and Scott’s family are here taking care of the details. We didn’t think we’d have a holiday this year, but things worked out for us. Sometimes they do. For today, that’s enough.