I hate the word cancer. When referring to my husband’s experience with this ass-hat of a disease, I often substitute the word cancer with the less formidable word cauliflower. Cauliflower doesn’t conjure up the ugly visceral response like cancer does. I am not afraid of cauliflower. I don’t hate cauliflower. Nobody feels sad or uncomfortable when you bring up cauliflower in casual conversation. My friends and family know exactly what I am talking about when I speak of the cauliflower and the rest of the world just thinks I am weird and they aren’t exactly incorrect. Semantics are a viable defense mechanism.
Kevin has reached the ONE YEAR mark since he completed treatment for the cauliflower and we just returned from Houston with a clean scan. His thyroid is a little fried from the radiation but there was no cauliflower detected! MD Anderson is the Mecca for those suffering from all kinds of cauliflower and we have become familiar with the sights, sounds, and lingo that swirl around this amazing place. Every patient, friend, and family member traveling the mazes of floors and hallways has a story. Sometimes we sit in waiting rooms for hours and share our stories and sometimes we just sit quietly, our eyes adverted from IV drips, missing body parts, and skin over bone frailness. It is a community nobody wants to be a part of and yet we are all thankful for being there, wishing all the while we were someplace else.
Sitting in the hotel bar celebrating the good news, a group of cowboys came in to watch the basketball game and toast to their good day at the hog sale. While making small talk, they made their way to asking what brings us to Houston. Kevin told them that he was there for his follow up from cancer treatment and that it was a good report. They congratulated him and raised a glass and one commented that it was great that he was in “remission”. My gut clinched and on the outside I smiled and raised my beer, but on the inside I was like, “Hold it right there, Cowboy. That is not a word we use around these parts.” I realized right then and there I had another word to add to my list of words I hate: REMISSION.
Remission is a word that is used to describe a cauliflower that is still there but isn’t exactly growing or doing causing any real and present danger. It is a lurking, hiding, evasive cauliflower awaiting the opportunity to take root and sprout. NO WAY. This is NOT what we are toasting. We are not here to give this cauliflower an easy “in” to just pop up whenever it damn well feels like it. “Oh, hey, Cauliflower, been a while, come on in and make yourself at home.” Hell to the no! We can go with eradicated, terminated, dissipated, decimated, slaughtered, annihilated, sent packing, but we are not going to label it remission. It is too polite. It is too open-ended.
I am not sure why the words of a well-meaning cowboy hit me so sideways. After all, I have my husband and he is healthy and cancer-free in this moment. Why all the inner turmoil over a term said with good intent by a pig farmer in a bar? It is because that word robs me of the finality of this chapter in our lives. Our lives are forever changed, but for this moment it is good and I don’t want the next chapters to begin with “remission” dangling like a participle at the end of a really long sentence. I want a “hard stop”.
Looking over his MRI report, it seems that the medical community has embraced this notion, as his report didn’t say anything about remission. It said, “NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.” That has a really nice ring to it! BOOM! Nothing there! No caveat of “Nope, we sure didn’t see anything, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in there somewhere.”
I have said all this to surmise that I have decided on the omission of remission. We are going to hang our hat on “NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE”. Subsequently, I have decided that dissecting the medical terminology used by a cowboy pig farmer in a bar is exhausting and should also be avoided.
We were putting away groceries a couple of weeks ago and Kevin threw a head of cauliflower at me, when I wasn’t looking. Thanks to my catlike reflexes (just go with it, it was self -preservation and luck), I caught it right before it smacked me upside the head. My son Evan said, “Wouldn’t it have been ironic if Dad survived cauliflower and accidentally killed mom by hitting her in the head with an actual cauliflower?” This is our life. These are our moments. For these, I am thankful. Words matter, moments matter more.