Wikipedia says that remission is defined as: “the state of absence of disease activity in patients with a chronic illness, with the possibility of return of disease activity.”
The Queen of Neuroses would have a field day if my doctor said I was in remission. That dread of waiting for the other shoe to fall, oh yes, the Queen would be in her element.
But I do know people in remission that have been that way for several, blessedly normal years. On the other hand some people who have gone into remission have seen a return of their cancer, but in a more pernicious form. And they soon die. One such was Andy Whitfield. Suffering from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, he completed his regimen of treatments, and was pronounced in remission. He was to return to work on “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.”
His remission lasted mere months, and when his cancer returned, it was more aggressive and more lethal. An oncologist, not related to his case, said that there are times when you can have a PET scan (the current gold standard for finding pesky cancer cells) and it finds nothing. Yet a single cell can remain, and that cell has the chance to adapt; it’s already survived what was thrown at it from chemo and/or radiation.
And when the time is right, it divides and conquers; stronger, more aggressive than ever, and driven to survive. So, Andy Whitfield died of his cancer, just 39 years old, in simply beautiful physical condition, and apparently good health. But that one cell had gotten away, and it did its job. (And remember, that’s just the theory of an oncologist non-related to Andy Whitfield’s actual case.)
On the one hand, I would love to hear the words that I am in remission, yet on the other, it’s somehow heartening to continue my treatments, knowing that I’m doing something active to defeat these little bastard cells. Because really, I would hate to give the Queen of Neuroses any ammunition whatsoever.
Oh, and Christopher Hitchens, rest in eternal peace. You touched so many, in ways you can't even imagine.