Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tests, Grades, and Milestones…

Two months on chemo. It's a milestone, only problem is I'm still not sure of where this road leads. On Wednesday I took another PCR test that tracks the CML at the DNA level. The clinical trial folks want to know if the free meds I’m getting are making an impact.

On a road trip I am one of those people who set the trip odometer, count the miles to my destination and make estimates for reaching certain goals/towns by a certain time. Don't think for a moment that this means I am an on time person (as most everyone reading this knows already).

Nevertheless I am a constant counter. Lili and I play 'overs and unders.' I pick a time I think we will arrive and she can take ‘over’ or ‘under.’ Rules say I must obey speed limits (a new rule) and not sway the results. We like checking the mile markers and updating our estimates (bets). It’s not a race, but we seem to find comfort and fun in knowing where we are in the journey at any given moment.

Grades are an evaluation of how much a student mastering all the coursework. Tests indicate the progress of mastery, or do they? I ‘mastered’ several subjects in college, but I’d be hard pressed to pass any of those tests now. Perhaps I was smarter in the 1980’s. Some classes I really loved and thus devoured the books, but even so my grades most often didn’t reflect my mastery of the subject. At the time I would respond by saying I didn’t master the opinions the professor wanted, but I knew the info. My bravado was surely a survival instinct under the heat of competition from very well educated classmates.

In the case of cancer, even with tons of test results I am not sure where I am at any given moment. And how do I measure myself and success vs. cancer? How can I calculate my scores versus the competition? Success of course would be a total disappearance of the disease. To be 100% cancer free. Only problem is, medical science says that’s not really possible. For a competitive gal, that translates to “the best you can expect is a C”. A prognosis of 6 years is supposed to sound good. It really doesn’t.

Several friends and family are reaching age milestones this year. I am thrilled for them since age milestones mean they reached a coveted goal – another year of life. But like my college grades, I realized that the passing of time may not be an indication of mastery, or a life well lived. Birthdays don’t count the memories, the laughter and silliness of living. Nor do they count the sleepless nights of lonely or tears of worry.

Even among cancer blogs, I started to mentally note the number of visitors to their sites (vs. mine of course). And, I began comparing the volume of comments on their entries to the number of comments on mine. I’m starting to think measurement and comparison is a form of perverse addiction akin to GPA’s, big houses, trophy spouses, and well… body part size comparisons. (I think you know what I’m talking about…)

In a moment, I was transformed from Rhonda, to Rhonda with cancer. It’s as if the odometer is spinning and flashing, and all the road signs are in some technical language I don’t understand. My ‘life’ maps all seem out of date. Everything has changed, but not in one of the many ways I had hoped. Now is the season of rewriting, recycling, or getting rid of my ‘life goals’ and just being.

I promise to keep everyone posted on the test results and new goals. How about ya’ll keep me posted on the measurements of your life? The comment section awaits…

PS. In case you are counting, this entry is 644 words.


Rachel said...

While I do not understand what you are going through, and would be foolish to even suggest such a thing, I totally relate to the constant comparisons. I do everything you mentioned.... I am always trying to figure out how long it will take to get somewhere and adjusting accordingly during the drive (and often not driving the speed limit to meet my goal), always compared my grades to others (yet I could have always studied more at the time), and now with my own blog and online magazine articles, I am constantly comparing my comments to others. Then comparing the number of visitors to my site to the day before, the number of visitors to each page on my site vs. another. CONSTANT CONSTANT CONSTANT! Discovery helped free me of a lot of that but I guess part of it is in my DNA.

As I said, I cannot imagine what you are going through, but I appreciate your heart and spirit during this fight. Thank you for sharing and continue to be vulnerable and let others know what they can do. I am pretty far away and can't really "do much" but I can definitely keep you in my prayers and be here to talk if you need it.

Love ya

Annie - Steven's mom said...

Many years ago, just after arriving in the USA, I did a river trip down the Tennessee River from Spring City to Florida. It was during the many storms of early 1994 so many of the river bouys, the markers were washed away or dragged out of place.

When we found one that was in place and we could figure out where we were, it was wonderful! one day we found out that those bouys were all in the wrong place, and another day we found about 25 of them washed up on the side of the river. It took us all a while to close our mouths again - we had nothing to guide us if they were all there! We could run aground!

But the river kept on flowing, the next corner arrived, the next barge passed by as did the next town and marina. And our journey carried on. It took us down that river even if we were scared and lost. And the views along the way were awesomely beautiful..........

I think of this often when dealing with my son having leukemia and now sometimes I mentally throw away those bouys and markers and just enjoy the ride..

And so we learn to Just Be, one incorrectly placed marker, one road sign, one bouy at a time.

I love your writing, Rhonda -thanks so much for sharing.

love and light
Steven's mom

debbiedoesraw said...

Hey Rhonda
Well I can tell you are feeling better just by your spirited post!
I compare too.. but I find that the most important ones are what am I doing vs what I want to be was I paitent enough with my daughter? Did I hug my husband enough today? I am trying compassion to replace comparison to others.. it is a whole new mindset that gives me a challenge and a sense of peace and understanding.

Keep on the raw green path...I will have more on the wheat grass soon, check back!