Living Room

Jordan treats herself to a giant hot chocolate with ample whipped cream

Her first reaction was to tell everyone. “My cancer is smaller,” she revealed with a mature insouciance. Occasionally, she’d cock her mouth sideways to smile playfully, knowing the response she’d receive from her audience. The acclaim continues to pour in. With each new accolade she is the more imperturbable. She has a charming poise, a certain manner as if to say, “of course, I’m kicking its butt!”

Despite the fabulous news, Wednesday was a long, exhausting today. We’ve learned to prepare ourselves emotionally. It’s difficult to lift Jordan’s spirits when she is fasting because she’s about to undergo anesthesia. She was in a very cooperative mood Wednesday morning, though. She engaged the nurses and the anesthesiologist with wit and casual conversation. She gave them no trouble when it was time to get accessed. And as she slipped into slumber on the table of the MRI, she only half-finished an enthusiastic treatise on the joy of sushi.
By the time Jordan awoke and had lunch, the real anxiety set in. She wanted to go home and we wanted to know what the doctors saw. We’ve grown accustomed to non-news – the usual speech about very little change, maybe slight growth, maybe a slight reduction. We often hear that her tumor is ‘stable.’ And we believed this was what we were to hear again, until her doctor came into the room.
Her doctor is an optimist in every sense. He is a perfect fit for Jordan because he measures every diagnosis by the possibilities available for treatment. He often says he has a plan D and E already at work in his mind, just in case. When the news is not good, he delivers it warmly and with hope. Wednesday, he was positively effusive.
“Well, my little one, do you want to know about the great pictures I just saw?”
Jordan ignored him slightly. She fidgets in the exam room, often singing nervously and pretending no one else is with her.
He looked to us and told us that he was shocked at how well she was doing. He said he even checked the film again to make sure he was looking at the right patient and the right scan date. He pulled his interns over and showed them. The difference between her last scan and this day was dramatic. The enhancements marking the boundary of the tumor encircling Jordan’s brain were dimmer and less pronounced on the scans. Make no mistake, there is still a large mass of disease, but today it is less than it was three months earlier.
The visual diagnosis fits beautifully with the behavioral observations. In the last month Jordan has been more lively. Her cognitive abilities are flourishing. She is doing better at letter recognition. She remembers the entire lyrics to songs. She links experiences and knowledge together fluidly and with quick delivery.
After meeting with the doctor, Jeanette and I had little to say. We had prepared to ask many questions, all of them connected to an adverse diagnosis. We should have been hopping up and down in celebration. But we were subdued instead. We hugged each other, sandwiching Jordan in the middle. Jordan gave me a high five and that was that. We moved on. In the hours that would follow we progressively became more jubilant. It set in, and while we take nothing for granted, we are grateful for cause to celebrate.