Please Don’t Leave Me

After five years in remission, I thought it would be the end of my follow-ups with the remaining doctors.  My radio-oncologist scheduled my last scan.  I told her that since it was the last one, I wanted a PET scan.  That hospital didn’t give those out freely, but she obliged.  I knew that the PET was more precise and saw cancer cells as small as one centimeter.

“You’ll still have a partial CT-scan, since it renders better results for the abdomen.”

I don’t remember whether she said the abdomen or the torso, but she scheduled me for both the PET and the CT.

After I received the clean results from those tests, the follow-up with my surgeon was the only one remaining.  At that point, I was not looking forward to hearing him drop me too.  Then who’ll look after me?

But when the day came to meet with my surgeon, he said, “No, I will continue to follow you as long…”

He stopped speaking, but I knew he meant, “as long as you are alive.”

Maybe he didn’t think I would be around so many years after the advanced cancer – but I showed him.  I feel like a walking miracle.  I get the impression that he is surprised I’ve surpassed even his expectations.  “It’s ten years!”

Don’t ask me what I did to get here because I haven’t the slightest idea.  Besides, I’m not sure any thing I could do would change the outcome of my survival from such a grave diagnosis.

Patricia

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Summer Skies

There is no excerpt this week, but I’d like to leave you with a little sunshine to brighten your day, strength to conquer your pain, and love to fulfill every thing else.

As summer comes to a close, and our children return to the education we so desperately want for them, I wish each of you exercise caution, patience, and kindness in every aspect of your life.  May you always be rewarded with serenity and grace.  Peace to all, and see you next week!

Patricia

On And On

Scans are scheduled every few months in the beginning, and eventually, annually.  The doctors don’t abandon you just because the treatments are over.  You’re followed for years, so that if cancer reoccurs, they may catch it early enough.

My surgeon, my chemo-oncologist, and my radio-oncologist continued to follow me for a few years after the treatments were over.  Suffice it to say, I was still at the hospital often.  But visiting with the doctors and having stuff actually done to protect you from cancer, are very different.

They would poke and prod at my belly, check my glands around my neck and underarms, and my surgeon always has me take a lung X-Ray on the day of his visit.  The extent of our exchanges was limited, so there was really no reassurance that cancer hadn’t reoccurred.  Only the scans and occasional gastroscopy were comforting enough.

 

In my third year of remission, my chemo-oncologist told me, “I want you out of the hospital.”  He said that if the surgeon was continuing to review my case regularly, I would not have to return to oncology.  “Usually, with this type of cancer, it will return within the first two years.”

“Really!”  Was I safe now?

Don’t Let It End

The countdown for the remaining sessions couldn’t come fast enough, until my sister, Susy, said, “one more to go!”  It seemed like a good thing to her.  Theoretically, it should have been for me as well.

Despite the sufferance during treatments, the end of chemotherapy is filled with internal conflict.  You’d think I would be ecstatic about no longer having to go through those dreadful weeks of vomiting continuously, having diarrhea for days, mouth sores that felt more like needles, and extreme weakness – and it all feels worse with each passing treatment.

There was some relief about knowing I didn’t have to endure the long hospital visits, the disgust of receiving such potent medication, and laboring through each day.  But ask others, who have also completed cancer treatments, if they fear that there is nothing left to stop the cancer from growing.

“I’m on my own.  What do I do now?”  I thought.

My last treatment was completed in April, 2005.  I should have felt reinvigorated, right?  But I didn’t.  For months after, I was still experiencing many of the side effects, like the tingling in my feet and lower legs.  The awkward sensation prevented me from putting my feet to the pavement, so I didn’t want to walk much, even when I got some strength back.

Then there were the ongoing lessons of how and what to eat.  This consumed me daily.  I would realize at the end of the long day that all I’ve done was prepare food, eat, and lay down for almost two hours each time to digest.  I was tired all of the time, and nausea continued to be a daily phenomenon.  Housework was out of the question, so for some time, we hired a cleaning lady.

 

Even suffering is welcomed when we feel protected.  I can imagine many other situations we put ourselves through just to avoid getting hurt, troubling some one else, being alone, fearing an outcome.  

Help those around you jump from their box, and see the world in a whole new light – a brighter light.  

Patricia

The Song In My Head

I could barely say a word.  Speaking was at a minimum during this period.  Nausea consumed me already, and talking made it worse.  I often had to cut telephone conversations because I felt the gagging begin.

The children were usually playing and watching television at that time.  They always watched the same shows.  One of their preferred daily entertainment was Barney & Friends.  The big purple dinosaur would gather his friends at the end of the show, and they all sang and gestured the “I Love You” song..  I grew so tired of hearing it, but couldn’t bear to take it away from the kids.

After my ordeal was over and I was less confined to a couch, I would hear the song when Isabella watched it on the weekend.  I was spared during the week, once she was at daycare three days a week in late 2005.  “Oh my God, I can’t take that song any more.”  What a horrible reminder.  I had been brainwashed to feel torture at the sound of those lyrics.  It didn’t have any thing to do with the dinosaur, and I was grateful my daughter had the television, colouring books, and toys to keep her preoccupied.  But there was a sense of disgust from the association of being so sick and forced to watch it.  A similar feeling I get from being in the oncology department on the fourth floor of the hospital – a blistering reminder, even today.

The week following chemotherapy was the worst.  That’s when all the amenities were made available to me – painkillers for whatever would hurt;  nausea pills that didn’t seem to have an effect on me;  mouthwash for the sores that lasted the entire week;  hemorrhoid cream that never eased the pain when the diarrhea came;  and let’s not forget, the bucket for those uncontrollable urges.  I became engrossed with symptoms that seemed to last an eternity.  Day in and day out, I was a zombie to the meds and a slave to the side effects.  The end of each session couldn’t come soon enough.

Lucky me, my menstrual cycle always began when I had my chemo.  For some women, the cycle stops during chemo, but mine never missed a beat!

 

Have a wonderful day!

Patricia