Tristin Roney

I wasn’t able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, but 2/3 of the greatest women I know is still pretty good.

On the cancer update front, we decided today to discontinue chemotherapy. The side effects of the last round were quite a bit more unpleasant than previous rounds, so the oncologist suggested the potential long-term side effects might be reaching a point where they are outweighing whatever extra benefit I would get from continued chemo.

Next steps are to do a PET scan on my chest and hope there haven’t been any changes in that spot on my left side. The next difficult decision will be whether to have part of my lung removed so we don’t have to worry about the spot. As with continued chemo, it’s a guessing game and a balancing act between side effects and potentially life-saving benefits.

Decisions are hard, and the higher the stakes, the harder it is to feel confident about a decision. It’s no wonder we are drawn to take on labels for ourselves–identifying with a group allows us to outsource a lot of our decisions. This isn’t always a bad thing, obviously, but it brings with it the risk of living a passive life of no consequence.

Throughout this cancer adventure I’ve often found myself being tempted to retreat into the patient identity, usually in hopes of outsourcing my treatment decisions to my doctors. For better or for worse, they never let me get away with it and I end up having to do the hard work of deciding between treatment options, then holding the responsibility for the outcome.

In the end I appreciate the responsibility, though. Because whether I’m right or wrong, and in spite of the risks it carries, it contributes to living a life of intention and purpose. The world makes it far too easy to be an observer of your own life, and I don’t want to get to the end of mine and regret not being a more active participant in it. I’d rather struggle through the decision-making process and fail then feel helpless while the world determines my outcomes for me.

Tristin Roney

I know just the thought of me already brings up some death anxiety in many of you–understandably–but I can’t resist making a plea to everyone to face your fears, acknowledge your eventual and unavoidable demise, and have open discussions about death with the people you love.

I don’t know the original source, but an obviously wise person once shared the following set of realizations with me:

Realization 1: I’m dying.
Realization 2: I was always dying.
Realization 3: We are all always dying.
Realization 4: Nothing has truly changed.
Realization 5: I’m at peace with that.

Most of the time, most of us are successful at pushing death to the background, where she creates a mild sense of unease at best. Some get lucky and brush close enough to death (at great cost) that we have no choice but to shake hands with her. And some find her acquaintance without any prompting. In the end, a few are able to embody the 5 realizations and experience genuine peace until the moment of our actual physical death.

My point is, don’t wait until death forces herself into your consciousness to start making these realizations. No matter how strong your faith in your beliefs about the next life, there are no shortcuts for coming to terms with the inevitable end of this life. A peaceful acceptance of your death means a peaceful acceptance of your life and everything it throws at you. I’m not there yet–in spite of the accelerated crash course I have been given–but I’m closer and my life is more peaceful as a result. I would love for these benefits to exist for all people, long before death is knocking at the door.

Tristin Roney

Mostly just posting this to see if there is anyone out there that has never used the Amazon app. If you haven’t, here’s free money for you.

Tristin Roney

I’m sure you’re all sick of seeing my sad mug in chemo selfies, so here are two awesome faces for you to enjoy today instead.

I don’t have a single, clear thought I want to express today. The path of my emotional experience today has woven through moments of dread, excitement, gratitude, sentimentality, ennui, numbness, and–especially–love. I’m not emotionally unstable, it’s probably just the drugs.

I can’t easily pull a simple, Facebook-worthy lesson from this to share with everyone, but I guess that’s the point. I can say, “This is awful–I love it,” without irony or sarcasm, because both parts of the statement are true at the same time.

I’ve been through physical and emotional turmoil recently, but I’ve also been the recipient of more luck and love than anyone else I know during this time. Life is complex and diverse, and maybe the trick to making it a worthwhile experience is to deep-dive into the whole spectrum of feelings that life brings and develop a sense of curiosity about it. It’s okay to ask, “Why?” and, “What’s next?” but we can also ask, “Why not?” and, “How can I use this for good?”

This is how we manage our oxymoronic existence as things both acting and acted upon. We are neither helpless nor all powerful; we are participants in a massive, beautiful project of becoming, and our ability to recognize how we fit into it determines our opinion of the whole thing, as well as our general ability to create within it.

My hope is to surrender completely to the whole spectrum of my life, fully embrace my responsibility for it, experience creative joy throughout what’s left of it, and leave behind something beautiful when I’m done. And I’d really like to see what you are creating, too.

Tristin Roney

You’d be forgiven if this picture led you to believe Tennyson is a contemplative fellow, but he did actually sit down without any coaching.

In other (really good) news, the pathology results from the tumor-removal surgery came in. The tumor was very large (3.84 cm) and penetrated the entire rectum wall, but it did not affect any tissue beyond the rectum wall and only one of 16 lymph nodes was cancerous.

The tissue was “moderately differentiated” (still kind of looked like colon and not totally cancer). Still no news on possible lung metastases, but I’m feeling pretty good about my odds at this point. For the cancer aficionados out there, I believe that makes it a T3 N1a M0 G2 cancer. I was also told there was a “partial response” to treatment (as opposed to no response or total response).

Because there was not a total response and 1 lymph node was still infected, and because I’ve tolerated chemo very well so far, I was advised to continue chemo treatments for a few more rounds.

My next infusion is on Wednesday, so I’m–once again–trying to soak in my last few days of feeling good before I take another jaunt through sucksville.

Based on the current plan, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to return to normal life by the end of August. That would mean I’m over halfway done with this roller coaster ride. The thought brings alternating waves of excitement and overwhelm. In the end excitement usually wins, though. Getting close!

Tristin Roney

We ventured into the forest to celebrate Earth Day and came across trash all over the place. Hashtag sad, or whatever Tennyson is expressing here. We just wanna save some freaking trees!

Tristin Roney

Pants are so lame, so we’re giving them the morning off.

In other news, I survived surgery and I’m healing up nicely. I wish I could say I did the whole ride fearlessly and optimistically, but, at least half the time, I was afraid and unable to avoid thoughts of what could go wrong. If there is one thing that can break my typical positive outlook, it is the thought of losing my family.

Luckily, I had an army of positive energy behind me, and it more than compensated for my fears. Thank you to all of you. Your words made a huge and pleasant impact on my experience, as always.

Even more important to me, however, was that I had the reassurance that Juanique was on the ride with me, gracefully carrying an extraordinary burden that she didn’t ask for. Even without a single word of encouragement from another human being, I am confident in my path forward in life because she is a part of it. No one should ever be asked to do what she has had to do in the last year, but there isn’t another person I’d trust more to do it.

We should be getting the lab results back on Friday to help us determine what our next steps will be. While it’s far from a guarantee, and we’ll never know for sure, there is a chance that I am cancer free right this moment. That’s a thought worth obsessing over, I think.