An End to the Highway

Monday is a big day. Not because it marks the first Monday Night Football game of the season. Not because it starts the first full week of school for the kids. Not even because it is Amy Winehouse’s birthday (one of Jordan’s favorite singers). Monday, September 14th may be the end of a road we’ve been traveling for five years. Jordan goes in for an MRI that morning. If her scans show the same progress we’ve seen for the last 12 months, Jordan will stop all chemotherapy. She may soon enjoy a life without pills and infusions, without long hours in an oncology clinic, without trepidation and anxiety about the side effects of her chemical cocktails. While the journey is certainly not over, this road may be dead-ending onto a sunny beach.

She’s nervous, of course. She knows that an MRI means anesthesia, which means needles and grogginess. But, she’s also hopeful. She tells people she’s kicking cancer’s butt, but I think this milestone may actually give her confidence that she wasn’t just boasting. I asked her about her thoughts this morning over our weekly Saturday breakfast of pancakes and tea.

– Yeah, I don’t want to get poked.

– But don’t you feel good about maybe being done with chemo?

– Yeah.

She was silent for a moment.

– Hey, Daddy, I’m just like Billie Armstrong. I really kicked it’s butt.

She often confuses names. She means Lance Armstrong. I understand this because I understand how her dizzy logic works. She used jazz as an anchor. She loves Billie Holiday. She connected Billie to Louis Armstrong, who has the same last name as her cancer-fighting hero, Lance Armstrong. Don’t ask me how I connected the dots. I just speak Jordan.

The reality, of course, is that we don’t know if the fight is over. September 14th begins a carefully planned gamble. She will be going back in for follow-up MRI scans quite frequently for the next year. Her doctor will be looking for any sign of tumor growth. If there’s even an inkling that something is afoot, she’ll be back on the chemo regimen. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed. I suspect that from this day forward Jeanette and I will scrutinize everything. When she fumbles with a word or slurs her speech, we’ll wonder if a seizure is imminent. When she struggles with a math problem, we’ll wonder if the tumor is toying with her cognitive function. When she complains of a headache, we’ll wonder if the monster’s awakened.

None of these worries will dampen our spirits this week if the results stream in as we hope. It’s hardly the end of Jordan’s Journey. Like any great mythic hero, she still has to return back to her ordinary life after slaying the dragon. She has to return home with the mythical elixir. For Jordan, this means strengthening her legs, bolstering her studies, learning to read. There’s much more ahead, but the end of a road can be a very satisfying milestone. And we plan to celebrate.