I recently attended an event where I saw a number of people I hadn’t seen in several years. Many hadn’t known I had cancer. When I tried to explain, my story didn’t always seem to compute.
“So you’re all better now?” I’m doing very well on a new medication, and I feel good.
“It must feel great to have that behind you now.” They say that people who respond well to this medication get, on average, about a year of good health, and then the cancer develops resistance to it. I might get more than that.
“So you’re in remission?” No. The cancer in the part of my lung they are tracking for a study is reduced by 83 percent, but I still have cancer.
There are a few visible clues to the serious disease I still have: the short hair, the port in my chest and the tiny scar over it. But I’m able to travel, to speak in public, to keep forging ahead with my academic work. I have very few side effects from crizotinib.
It’s good news, right? I didn’t know I would still be alive now, but I am doing so well that you wouldn’t know I had cancer.
It’s very disorienting, though. The cancer is almost invisible, but it’s still pretty much the defining experience of my life.