About a month before every scan, Miles starts to get nervous. “Scanxiety” they call it. The pacing begins; then the hypervigilance over every little cough (“What was that? You feel ok??”). Then the seemingly random and incessant question: “You promise?”
This question began shortly after we returned home from my lung removal and radiation treatment in New York in 2013. It was like a nervous tick, a talisman of Miles’ internal anxiety. He’d ask “You promise?” and I would know instantly he was worrying. It became our shorthand for all the things we couldn’t possibly put into words – “You promise?” was a way for him to ask me the impossible, to beg me to confirm what we could never truly be certain of: “You promise you’ll be ok?”
I’d respond “I promise” – usually, on good days, I’d see relief wash over his face. The closer we got to scan day, the question popped up more frequently, with more urgency; my response with less potency. But Miles needed to hear me say “I promise” just as much as I needed to say it – to feel like this was something I could control, something I could confirm. Yes, I promise. I promise I’ll be here in a year. In 10. In 20. I promise we will get the life we’ve been dreaming of, the life we’ve been begging and clawing and suffering for. I promise this scan will be good and we will be able to breathe again. I promise.
We’ve been lucky. Extremely and inexplicably lucky. We are keenly aware of this; just in the past month, the lung cancer community has lost several members we’d come to consider friends. People we’ve looked to for hope, people we’ve shared our fears with, people who wanted to survive just as desperately, and who suffered just as badly for it as I did. Yet no amount of wishing or praying or “I promise” could save them from this awful disease, and my heart is broken for their families and loved ones. My heart is broken for them, for all their un-lived hopes and dreams.
The injustice is shattering. And I’ll admit that the fear and sadness I feel at their passing causes me to catch my breath, to acknowledge the weight I feel in my chest when I think about what could have been for me.
It is with this in mind that I woke up today, on my 7 year NEDiversary. Remembering my own fight, but also burdened by the injustice my friends have faced in the loss of theirs.
I am unimaginably grateful for my outcome. Seven years ago, fresh off a lung removal and radiation that made me miserably sick for months, this life was a pipe dream. The reality Miles and I are now living is beyond our wildest dreams. It is what I was wishing and hoping for every time I would squeeze his hand, look into his eyes and will to be true – “I promise.”
In the uncertain world of lung cancer, unfortunately none of us can truly make this promise. We have no idea if the treatments will be effective, the scans will be clear, the outcomes will be good. But I need that phrase, and the confidence and hope that it inspires in both myself and Miles. We need to believe that, by making that promise, it is true. That I am NED. That I will always be NED. That 20, 30, 50 years is a reality.
(We are sad to miss the SoCal 5k today supporting the Go2 Foundation for Lung Cancer – formerly Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Lung Cancer Alliance – as Miles has the flu and we don’t want to risk infecting anyone. This is a foundation near and dear to my heart, and it is doing so much good for patients like me. Please consider donating HERE.)