Cancer is scary & me
Posted October 29, 2009on:
Thank goodness this chemo brain thing hasn’t kept me from writing profound thoughts like, “cancer is scary.”
What is scary about cancer is the obvious. Will it do me in? Or just be a rather large inconvenience in life for an extended period of time? I’m opting for the second, but I don’t have complete control over this.
Tuesday I got to have a “bonus biopsy.” When I had my last chemotherapy treatment, my oncologist felt a little something in my underarm that was disarming to say the least. But while Dr. Paula Gill felt this cyst-like thing was not cancer, we had to be sure.
It was most likely going to be dead fat cells that collected in response to removing lymph nodes during my mastectomy. And, it was.
Still, I got to have an ultrasound and ultimately my bonus biopsy just to be sure. You can’t have any grays in cancer; you need to know what it is.
And I can’t resist, of course, noting that with chemotherapy, there aren’t exactly any grays on my head at the moment.
Anyway, if there could be a fun biopsy, this was one. Dr. Anne Marie Shorter, the breast radiologist at Franciscan Skemp and I talked all the way through the procedure, which didn’t hurt. We discussed life, our sons and breast cancer. She even commented about my Keen shoes, which she loved. I said if the biopsy showed no cancer, the shoes were hers.
Dr. Shorter felt confident, too, that this was not going to turn out to be cancer. And it didn’t. When she called to say it was not cancer, she reminded me I owed her the shoes and I’m willing to give them to her any time. J
I loved that response from her. For me, connecting with those caring for me is very, very important.
The truth is thateven with my perky cancer bravado, it’s still scary. And waiting for results is the most frightening. Once I have the bad news if it must come (about the cancer itself and later lymph node involvement), I could begin to cope and I did.
Waiting for results is horrible. It’s a constant mind game of trying to figure out what is happening until the results are in. Was no news good news? Or, was no news just an indication that I hadn’t gotten news yet? Or that someone had found time to call?
Do I telephone or just wait? For all my jokes, I am a chicken. Calling is hard and not calling is even harder.
And getting phoned out of the blue from a doctor is even more terrifying. When my son had cancer back in the 1980s, he had this amazing pediatric oncologist, Dr. Slungaard, who was like a Norwegian Marcus Welby: kind and avuncular. If the phone rang in that era before caller ID and I heard, “Dr. Slungaard here” in a lilting Norwegian accent I was immediately bereft with a physical terror from my throat down to my gut.
Dr. Welby, played by Robert Young of Father Knows Best fame, was on ABC from 1969 to 1977 and was the most popular TV doctor of all time. He was a general practitioner in solo practice and role model for a young doctor.
How different doctors and medicine are today. I love my “all girl” medical team: my primary care doctor, Dr. Margaret Grenisen; surgeon, Dr. Kathleen Christian; breast radiologist, Dr. Anne Marie Shorter, and oncologist Dr. Paula Gill.
(Note: as a young woman of the 70s, I would never refer to adult women as “girls,” but today young women use girl again.)
In a sense, with this female team there is a feeling of is being in this together. Of course, we are not exactly singing songs at summer camp.
I get reminded of that every once in a while when my equilibrium, cancer style, is thrown off by something new. Then this anxiety begins to build until I know what I’m dealing with and the coping process begins anew.
Thankfully, for now, I’m back in equilibrium.