Cancer Semantics

Cancer. Chemo. Cancer Free. Metastasize. NED. NBD. Blah. Blah. Blah.

If cancer has reminded me of one thing, it is to not get lost in the labels of life. We as a society get so caught up in labeling: fat, thin, pretty, rich, cancer, cancer free. How about we just live our lives?

I spent this morning on the phone with Marjorie’s nurse going over yesterday’s CT and PET Scan results. She said words like,

“decrease in size” “little areas are calcified” “less avid from where they were” “hypo density of the liver has decreased” “MIBG impression negative and no new disease” “in remission”

Of all the big words she said, Jess never said those words I thought I wanted to hear, Cancer Free.

Then five minutes ago the nurse called back with Dr. Gauger on the line and she walked me through the report again. I strained my ear so close to the phone, thinking my proximity to the speaker would help me understand complex medical jargon.

Then Dr. Gauger said those magic words, but they were wrapped up in a complicated sentence that did not confirm or deny the words. Enter: comical confusion.

I smiled on the other end, face still awkwardly mushed to my phone. I suddenly realized that it doesn’t matter. Whether Dr. Gauger writes Cancer Free in the sky or sends a singing bear to my house, those words don’t matter.

Like I wrote last night, cancer does not define us and cancer free does not define us. It is not about crossing the ambiguous cancer free finish line, it is about the race and the race is a marathon. It is about taking it a day at a time. It is about taking the good news and running with it, rejoicing in it. Bottom line is: we got good news today and the bigger picture is that Marjorie’s long term prognosis and recurrence rate is so good and so very low. THAT is what we embrace and celebrate.

Yes, I have cried tears today. And after I hung up the phone with Dr. Gauger, I came to realize these tear were not from hearing magic words. They were tears of release. Releasing anger, exhaustion, stress, worry, joy, gratitude. These scans take so much out of me, not to mention my peanut. Both Jordan and I are a little on edge both before and after. After the scans is when the bigger tidal wave of emotions comes.

Today, I let go of magical labels and embraced the feelings within. We will have more scans, probably twenty years worth. And I will go through the same emotions every time. One day Marjorie will medically no longer have cancer cells in her body, but for all intensive purposes, she is cancer free to me right now.

Marjorie is cancer free because giggles and grows with love and a heart bigger than her tiny body. She lives every day cancer free, inspiring and reminding us all to live every day like we are cancer free.

We don’t know when cancer or tragedy will come knocking. Like my bestie, Brene, says, “You can’t dress rehearse tragedy.” So let’s stop trying. Let’s start living…with or without cancer.

So F-you to cancer and your semantics too. Jordan and I are going out on a date tonight and taking some time for us, something long overdue. We will be toasting to life, another great scan and most of all to two fantastic kids who make us laugh and fill our house with love (and laundry) every day.


And for your entertainment…I present my cancer ‘notes’. Clearly my background is in medicine.


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  • Sawyer Riley
    October 22, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    McCall –

    You’ve been for a hell of a ride lately. I’m SO glad to hear that you’re finally catching a break. I love you tons and I’m so happy that things are turning around.



    Sawyer Riley 707-812-8227 [email protected]

    New jewelry now online at . Please check it out!


  • Mimi bittick
    October 23, 2015 at 12:01 am

    I have been following your story while fighting the battle with my own 4 year old daughter. I “get it” and appreciate your ability to put into words what it means to have a child with cancer. Thank you!