Survival 

I’ve written about the week our son was diagnosed with brain cancer a couple of times.

In 2011, I outlined the two years of treatments Josiah received after his diagnosis. A month after publishing the piece I trespassed to visit his old hospital room, an event that will forever be linked to my longterm battle with depression.

Josiah finished chemotherapy almost four years ago, and his MRIs since then have been stable.

Stable is a funny word. Unlike some cancer patients, Josiah’s tumor can’t be shrunk by treatment. It’s more or less the same size as it was after his initial operation five years ago.

In fact, today marks the five-year anniversary of Josiah’s tumor being found. His pediatrician sent us for an ultrasound after voicing a concern about his head circumference, and the next day we were told to drive to across town to the children’s hospital without taking the time to go home and pack a bag first.

That frantic drive kicked off not only a weekend of MRIs and surgery, but a journey that our family is still on.

Five years is a big deal. When people talk about survival rates in cancer circles, five years is the timeframe usually in question.

When Josiah was diagnosed, the doctors weren’t able to give us a survival rate. What he has is just too rare, they said. There were too many unknowns.

In a way, this lack of information provided a type of freedom. While Josiah’s cancer is certainly life-threatening, but not having a number to think about all the time is a weird blessing. Coupled with how well he’s done over the last couple of years, I sometimes forget about the whole thing.

I don’t know what the future holds. While the last half-decade has been full of mostly (relative) good news, I know that may not always be the case.

For now, however, I can look back over the five years and lose count of the ways Josiah has surpassed every estimate and projection doctors have made. The boy who wasn’t supposed to walk can ride a bike. The boy who wasn’t going to be able to see out of both eyes can run and jump. The tumor that was supposed to grow again hasn’t yet.

The anniversaries keep rolling around, and we keep getting years with our son to treasure.

I know we’re the lucky ones. I’ve seen way too many child-sized coffins over the last five years. Josiah has lost too many friends to this thing. So, while today we celebrate, I always come back to the old mantra:

Fuck cancer.