Five years ago, after getting news that I was in remission, I toasted my victory with a celebratory glass of Cabernet raised high. But shortly after I tossed back that glass of wine, I started to feel not so great. It was as if all the nerves in my body were being mildly electrocuted, followed by terrible stabbing pains in my chest. I pretty much went straight to bed and hugged my knees the rest of the night.
One month later, a PET scan revealed something small. This led to 19 long-ass stressful months of failed biopsy procedures, mental limbo, and differences of opinion about whether or not the cancer was back. Even though all signs pointed to cancer again, they needed to get a tissue sample to officially confirm cancer recurrence. My post-chemo organs were all glued together and uncooperative to surgeons, so it took 19 months to eventually yield a cancerous tissue sample and the declaration–remission FAIL.
When I got the shitty news that there was no remission for me, I thought back to how I had toasted my remission–not so much about how it was a humiliating false remission, but about how it physically hurt to drink that glass of wine. You see, one of the possible symptoms of lymphoma is that alcohol consumption is followed by pain in the cancer affected areas and lymph nodes. It occurred to me that back when I toasted my “remission,” that glass of wine took me out, because the cancer was screaming in my body.
Ever since then, I’ve been afraid to drink alcohol–afraid to feel the scream of cancer.
My post cancer life often feels like running on leased time, with every “no evidence of cancer” PET scan allowing me to renew my lease for X number of months until the next scan. With the possibility of cancer pain, drinking seemed masochistically like fishing for an eviction notice, when I had just renewed my lease.
I’ve had many moments over the past couple years when I’ve thought, “Doc says I’m fine to drink … I should just do it and not have this fear hanging over me,” and I’ve even made plans a few times to bevie up with my wifey Crystal, but chickened out each time. Not that I needed to drink, but I wanted this monkey off my freakin’ back!
This weekend, I decided to take a different approach–make the whole thing much less of a big deal. That’s what led me to pop open a bottle of revolutionary red in my own kitchen, and simply fill up my Solo cup.
A cute guy (whose name rhymes with sea lion) did the pouring, and we crunched a plastic Solo cup toast to nothing.
Nothing felt damn good.