12 March 2009
It has been so long since I've had to actually deal with cancer that I almost forgot I had it...
...but not really.
I've probably told more people "I have cancer" in the past 30 days than I did that first month after diagnosis, thanks to the magical reconnective powers of Facebook. Oh hi, so and so. Wow, it's been forever since I've seen/spoken to/heard from you. What's new with me? Well, I have cancer. What's new with you? An awkward exchange, I admit. But as I said to one long-lost-now-found friend, it is foremost in my mind, so best to get it out on the table from the get-go.
But even though I've been coming out to people, and saying the words I have cancer, and rattling off the 60-second synopsis of my treatment and current state, I haven't really had to deal with it. It has been an abstract, something floating out in the ether, a thing that isn't really a part of me, even though it is the only part of me. The thing that matters so much that it eclipses everything else about me. I remember feeling this way about my father's death - that people who knew me needed to know that about me or else they didn't really know me: now it is my cancer they need to know.
The point is, emotionally and psychologically, cancer is an everyday part of life; but physically, not so much. For so many months, my physical space was bombarded with treatments; getting stuck and radiated and sedated and poisoned. But for over three months now, my bubble has not been invaded. I've had no doctor prodding me in private places, no nurse bracing me for the burn of a needle, no sickening side effects. No worrying about what I eat or who I touch or what I breathe near.
Until Monday. And then all the panic, all the anxiety came flooding back. Monday was my first official port flush. People are surprised to hear that I still have my port: it seems that it was almost universally assumed that once the chemo ended, the port would be gone. But no, I assure you it's still there. To say it is the bane of my existence would be a touch melodramatic, but it is something I never forget about and always loathe. I am most aware of it when I'm in the shower, and not once has my soapy hand passed over it without me cringing in response. I don't like how it looks; how it feels is much, much worse.
Despite all that, the port flush was surprisingly non-traumatic. I don't know if it was the Vitamin X that lingered from the previous night, or if it was the shock that they were only flushing and not taking any blood, but it was delightfully over before I could get too shook up about it.
Then, I could really start to panic. My first follow up exam was Wednesday, and let me tell you, there is nothing quite like the anticipation of finding out whether or not the hell of treatment did its job. As I explained to Nurse T, for the most part I keep it together. I can talk on and on (and on and on and on...) about my cancer and my treatment and my prognosis without getting upset. It had been a good three months since I'd shed a cancer tear. But with the expectancy of possibly hearing that I'd have to start it all over again, I was a bit unglued. And the tears, they did fall.
But it was good news! Both Dr M and Dr F examined me, and agreed that everything looked good and I was progressing just as they'd hoped I would. **SIGH** Yes, there are test results to wait for, and as the time draws closer to getting those results, I'm sure I'll revert back to being a wreck. But for now, I'm so very relieved to have been told - finally - that something was just as expected. Another **SIGH**
And to add to the joy, Dr M finally said out loud that yes, we can remove this god-awful port! Hallelujah!!! Of course, there are the aforementioned tests to pass, but if all goes well, six weeks from now, I will be an ex-cyborg. Ah, what a joyous day that will be!
And so, again, I thank each of you for your continued words of encouragement and support. It sounds cliche, but it really makes a difference to know that I'm not alone in this fight. We are strong, and we will win!
I'll have test results in two or three weeks.