PJ McCormick UX Design Lead at Amazon, Designer/Developer Hybrid, Speaker, Cancer Survivor

On Tuesday morning of this past week, I went in for a CT scan. On Wednesday afternoon, after waiting nervously in the lobby for what felt like an eternity, my oncologist—the incredible Dr. Henry Kaplan—gave me and my wife a thumbs up and an enormous smile.

The CT scans had come back clean.

“All the cancer nodes are gone,” Dr. Kaplan said.

The clusters of cancer that were sprinkled across my abdomen in the last rounds of CT and PET imaging were gone.

Sara and I were ecstatic, and Dr. Kaplan seemed happy to share our joy.

“Take your beautiful wife out to dinner,” Dr. Kaplan advised. Well, the good doctor’s advice hasn’t led us wrong yet. For the first time since I started chemo, Sara and I enjoyed a sushi dinner (sushi was the one food I was forbidden to eat, on account of my pummeled immune system), with a side of champagne and the glow of good news.

So, the cancer seems to be gone. For now, at least, it looks like we’ve won the battle. It caught us off-guard with its first sneak attack, and took a part of my body as a trophy, but we fought back hard.

What’s next?

First off, surveillance. Statistically, the first two years after cancer treatment are the ones with the greatest chance of relapse.

Which means I will be watched like a hawk for the next two years. Monthly blood draws. Bi-monthly physicals. Several CT scans a year.

I will be under some degree of medical monitoring for the rest of my life, but these first two years will be the most intense.

Meanwhile, I’ll also begin dealing with the emotional and mental fallout, as I enter into Survivorship.

At this point, I have no idea what to think about Survivorship, other than to be slightly afraid. I have a feeling it will be lonely (although I am so blessed to have Sara at my side, with her infinite love and understanding, to help combat that).

I think most people will think my fight is over, now that the CT scans are clean…as long as we can keep the cancer from re-invading my body, of course. I don’t blame them for thinking that. It’s the kind of thing I would’ve thought, in my past life.

Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. The damage the cancer inflicted upon me is done–and it’s not just physical.

I have no idea how deep that damage goes, but I have to start examining it.

Joining a cancer support group, of course, is a good idea. The wonderful, fantastic hospital that saved my life, the Swedish Cancer Center in Seattle, offers several. I will find one and join it.

Those are the next steps. Right now, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the good news we received this week.

It’s strange—in a way, receiving the news that I’m cancer free felt a lot like receiving the news that I had cancer. It’s massive news. So massive, it’s hard for me to comprehend. So massive, it still feels like it’s happening to someone else.