Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Changing Courses

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. Author Unknown

Well I made it through yesterday’s appointment and I do not have anything bad to report!
Today I woke up and felt strange. Almost like it was the first day of the start of a new life for me and to be honest it was slightly unsettling. Much of what I wrote about in my previous post ties in with this as I now have a whole six months where I don/t have any tests, doctors appointments, operations, or procedures. It seems like a very long time indeed and it makes me realise that my time as a cancer patient is well and truly over. That should be an extremely amazing thing to realise but it also scares me. It means a new life must begin and I have to stop living and breathing the Big C and start building a life away from it. It means getting stronger, it means becoming more independent, it means finding a job – it means standing on my own two feet. I was thinking this morning about a time years from now when I will probably hardly ever talk about this moment in my life. It was so weird to think that there will be a point when the memories fade and it won’t be who I am anymore. It will be a nice point to reach but when something has infiltrated every element of my life (not to mention my cells), it seems strange to imagine it not being so big anymore. Times of transition always make us unsettled or unhinged in some ways. This is definitely a time for transition for me.

So yesterday’s events were less dramatic then I had imagined. As I have been in quite alot of pain the last few days from the operation, I made a stop on the surgical ward first for a check up. Earlier a I was heading down the road to the hospital, I suddenly felt my eyes stinging and I took a few deep breathes in order to keep the tears in. Why this sudden emotional reaction? Probably the day ahead of me but also I couldn’t help but remember a year before when I had gone to have a surgical wound checked out on my own and then suddenly was told I had cancer. Maybe my biopsy results are already in. Can I tell them I don’t want to know anything today? Once you have been traumatised it is hard to not think the same will happen again. Well all my worries were unnecessary as we didn’t discuss anything but my pain which was normal and to be expected. When the nurse whom I have known since my first surgery asked how I was doing – the gates to the dam burst and the tears flowed. I told her how tired I was of being in pain, how tired I was of everything. She was so comforting and told me she knew I had a great mom so she could be like a grandmother to me. She understood how hard it was for me being so far from my family and friends. So after a cold splash of water to my face, I pulled myself together as any superhero would and with a hug I was off to my next appointment.

I passed a doctor in the hallway who remarked on how great my hair looked. I remember her well – she was the one who suspected I had metastasis in my back when I had had some back pain in September. Thankfully I didn’t but she made damn well sure I would never forget her face!

It was a very busy day in C-Town and there was hardly a seat to sit in and wait. I then met my husband which was nice as I needed a familiar face amidst the sea of faces laden with pain, exhaustion, and worry. Cancer centres can be incredibly depressing places. Then I saw my dear oncologist and his sidekick who I have a very good dialogue with and knows how deeply terrified I am. She told me she would come to the appointment to make me feel at ease as I told her I often go into autopilot whenever I see my own doctor and never manage to ask the questions I want out of sheer terror. Not this time – she knew my agenda. My doctor had also been briefed as he smiled and opened with a joke. We talked through all my points and found answers to most of them. Now I don’t usually go into any scientific detail on this blog but I will this time. I think I mentioned that I take a pill every day and will do for the next 5 years which is designed to be an extra line of defence against a cancer recurrence. Normally women with my type of cancer (triple negative cancer which tests negative for all hormone receptors and Her2) have only chemotherapy and radiation as options for treatment. TNBC accounts for something like 15-20% of all breast cancers and tends to present in younger women and is known for being quite aggressive. What we would call an overachiever in the cancer world. Anyways for some reason my weird body showed that my cancer was predominantly TNBC but then had a small hormone element which was rare but qualified me to take the hormone therapy. Now we are finding out that in these cases the results can often be false positives which means I could be taking a pill with crappy side effects for five years with no added benefit. Not cool! So they will dig up that old tumour and see what else we can decipher. In a weird way I hope I am able to continue taking the drug as I will take whatever extra protection I can get against this beast!

So we talked about pain. What is a pain worth calling about? How do you tell what is a sore muscle and what is deadly cancer? No easy answer there folks. Better to run it by them then not was their advice. This will be a hard one for me as I don’t want to be the crazy lady who calls for everything but I also don’t want to miss something serious. And I already suspect every pain I have to be cancer anyways!

Next on the agenda was the PET scan. They would like me to get one in the next 6 months which is a big deal. A PET scan is the most in depth method of detecting cancer. If there is a cancer cell in your body, this machine will find it. It will also find all sorts of other things that could be cancer but most often aren’t. Hence the high levels of anxiety that goes along with it. It really is a double edged sword – in one way you could get a ton of relief if everything is okay whereas on the other hand you could find out something horrific. And I just don’t think I can take anything horrific anytime soon. So I will think about it and figure out when the right time for me to do this is. I think right now myself and my family need 6 months where we can just be a family who does normal things and whose life doesn’t revolve around cancer. My husband and I often think - wouldn’t it be nice to have an overnight babysitter because we actually were going to do something fun as a couple and not because I was bedbound from chemo or recovering from surgery! So now is the time to do that.

So after a physical and some blood tests, my doctor shook my hand and handed me my next appointment for September. Yes September!! For the first time, I felt like he believed in me. Like maybe there wasn’t so much to be afraid of. Like maybe everything really will be alright. And that felt good.

I don’t know how this blog will evolve with the end of my main treatment for cancer having ended. I guess like the next few months, we will just have to see where the wind takes me. I am setting sail on another journey yet this time the weather doesn’t appear so stormy and I hear sunshine is expected.

Thank you for being with me the last 12 months and I hope you will stay on for the next ride.


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