I'm actually hesitant to type that, so I'm going to clarify: I just finished my last chemotherapy session this morning. I now wait a month, take my CAT scan on Dec. 23 (it's actually a family holiday tradition to drink dye, hold our breath while passing through a large machine, and then have diarrhea, so that's actually pretty normal), and then if everything comes up clear, I have my port removed (deported) shortly after Christmas.
In the meantime, my white blood cell count, including my neutrophils, are way low again, so I'm trying to take it easy and not get sick when I'm this close to the finish line. Fortunately, I've got more antibiotics and I don't plan on hanging around any flu-ridden people anytime soon. Actually, that's not entirely true, as I have an ambulance shift for my EMT class this Saturday, but I plan on wearing a mask on the calls until I find out the person isn't some sort of disease carrier. Nothing inspires confidence when you call for an ambulance like a pale bald guy in a surgical mask, huh?
Now, we start the monitoring. Apparently this is far from over, what with tests every 4-6 months for the next five years or so. I've read a lot of personal experiences of other guys having a problem with this, but I'm actually a big fan of it. It's essentially buying insurance that says I will not have to worry about finding out I've had cancer blitz my body for the next five years. Sure, I could get the news that it's returned, but then i just start working on the cure for it again...a hell of a much better option than being told it's Stage IV and having the doctor have to psych himself up to give me updates.
With the chemo treatments behind me, it's nice, but it doesn't feel like the monumental moment I was thinking it might be. I'm still slightly tired, I still don't have the teenager-like-appetite I had before this all started, and I still go to work looking like the principal from Back to the Future that calls everyone "slackers." It feels like, with ongoing treatments and my hair slowly growing back...apparently not likely to return until next April or May...I'm going to be eased back into normal life. Hell, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to return to life like it was before I started this entire process, and I'm not even entirely sure that I want to. It's not like I'm living carpe diem, running around barefoot and smelling roses and freaking everybody out (which would inevitably come from my barefoot-ness...I have strange feet), but I'm not like I was before, either. I think more about my future and my health, I think more about my life's "to-do list" and what I want to accomplish, and I'm a lot more reflective on what I've done so far in my 29 years of life. I'm not going to lie, initially hearing the words "cancer," even with a high rate of a cure, does make you think of death, and it made me realize how short life is and all that stuff. More than inspiring me to go do heroic deeds, however, this process has made me realize that I'm proud of the life I've lived so far and will hopefully keep me focused on not screwing up what I want to do with my future (items on my life to-do-list still include "Have an organized crime outfit owe me a favor (and use that favor on something meaningless...like the boxed DVD set of Dawson's Creek)," "Reach a point as a father where I realize I've created a sarcastic little monster," and "Write a book that includes a worthless, cleverly hidden message in the final paragraph."
This entire process has been beneficial for me...I just have to make sure that I keep in mind that I conquered testicular cancer when there are many people diagnosed too late to do that, and be grateful for that. Then I can use that thought to motivate me to save a mobster's life or teach my future son or daughter to say, "Well, that's....unique." Or, you know, good stuff.
Fortunately, that reminder won't be hard to keep in mind. I just turned 29 earlier this month, and in the true spirit of awesomeness in my family, my brother and sister-in-law found the perfect, sentimental gift that says more than words ever could. It's subtle, touching and will provide me with a constant reminder of getting past one of the most difficult parts of my life...and it's sure to make my wife feel awkward when she takes the car keys that this is on. That's the gift that keeps on giving.