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Moving the Goalposts

October 9, 2019

Have you ever had someone say something that cut through all your noise and bullshit? A statement that made you feel seen and known. That made you feel big and small. All the while making you wonder how on earth they knew that about you?

 

I’ve decided to take part in a clinical trial out of Emory. While my oncologists think the current treatment I’m on is working, it’s not having the overwhelming success that we were hoping. We feel like it’s a good time to try something different, with the knowledge that we can return to this regiment if need be. 

 

The trial is a pair of medicines that attack a certain mutation that has been found in my tumor cells. The mutation is a growth protein called HER2. About 15% of colon cancer patients have it, but it’s very common in breast cancer. One of the medicines is very effective breast cancer drug that they’re hoping works on people like me as well. It’s not a chemotherapy, it’s an antibody, so apparently the side effects have been pretty manageable. Even better news, last week they released the first round of results from Phase 2 of the trail, and they were very encouraging. 

______

 

I showed up to therapy this morning at 9am. My psychologist was wearing a suit. He doesn’t normally wear suits, and the one he had on was way too big. It looked like he was a kid and had raided his father’s closet. 

 

“What’s going on here,” I asked, pointing to his unusual attire. 

 

“I’ve got a wedding I’m a part of in a couple of weeks and needed to make sure my suit fit.” 

 

It didn’t, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him.

 

“Are you the best man?”

“No, just a groomsman.” 

 

“Is it your buddy’s second wedding?” 

 

“How did you know?” 

 

“Because we’re in our 40s?” 

 

He laughed and shut the door as I sat on the couch. 

 

I filled him in on my latest scan results, and the decision I had made to join the trial at Emory. 

 

“I want to make sure I enter the clinical trial with the right mindset,” I said to him. “You know what I mean? I want to really believe that this thing is going to have positive results.” 

 

“What does a positive result mean to you,” my therapist asked as he fiddled with his tie. 

 

I stared at the ceiling for a moment, thinking of the best way to answer the question. Before I had time to respond my therapist continued. 

 

“The reason I ask,” he said, “Is because you have a tendency to move the goal posts.” 

 

I leaned forward on the couch. 

 

“What does that mean?” 

 

“It’s not a bad thing, it’s just that when you get something positive, instead of taking time to enjoy it, you move on to the next thing.” 

 

“How did you know that?” 

 

“I’m psychic. And I’ve been listening to you talk for the past three months.” 

 

He nailed me. Right between the eyes. The second I get one of the things I work so hard for, I’m right on the next accomplishment. The next goal. So of course I live my life perpetually feeling like I’ve never made it. Because as soon as I make it I start to do something else! That’s annoying enough when I’m trying to build a career. It’s even worse when I’m trying to heal from a disease!

 

“How do I not do that? How do I keep the goalposts where they are?” 

 

“Just try to enjoy the fact that you’re a part of this cutting edge medical research, that you’re going to be getting watched like a hawk. And you’ve got to celebrate the little victories along the way, not just brush them aside and look on to the next. You know, as much as you can.” 

 

He said exactly what I needed to hear, proving once again that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Or a man suit three sizes too tall. 

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