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Survival Weekend

I was not aware until recently that the first Sunday in June has been designated National Cancer Survivors Day. While I appreciate the sentiment and am grateful for each day that I'm on this side of the grass, I can't help but feel that this kind of attention adds up to, "Congratulations for being lucky." So far.

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I am standing as I type this. My laptop sits atop a footstool about 9 inches high; my mouse and mouse pad top a mini-drawer assembly about 6.5 inches high. I’ve had to move various files to rearrange my work table and will take a photo once I finish putting everything back in order. It takes me less than a minute to convert to this makeshift “standing desk” from my regular sitting position and vice-versa.

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There's Waldo

Next month will mark my first follow-up mammogram since I had completed active treatment for breast cancer. In the case of lumpectomy, mammograms are recommended about six months after finishing radiation: "Radiation can cause some changes in the breast tissue and skin. This 6-month mammogram will become the new 'standard' against which future mammograms of the remaining breast tissue are compared."

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Back in the Saddle

I had my three-month checkup with my oncologist on May 5. All of my blood work results were normal -- for the first time since April 7, 2014. *fist pump*

I felt good stepping back in there. It feels like a reunion now -- catching up with the front desk staff and phlebotomists. I popped into the chemo bay to say hello and hoped that my brief presence could serve as encouragement to people in the same position as I had been in a year ago. (Today marks one year and two days since my first infusion.)

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Days of Future Passed

Recently I enjoyed time on my front porch -- listening to a virtuoso mockingbird, watching a young anole (lizard) in my hedge, and reading.

I am thrilled to be reading books again. Chemo had curtailed that activity; I simply did not have the concentration for it. Neither did I have the energy to invest in the drama and emotion of fiction in particular.

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An Extra Pair of Eyes

Disclaimer: I wrote most of this entry before I spoke with Dr. W on April 16, 2015. I have left it as-is because I wanted to show my raw reaction to what I had seen. The Update section reports on our conversation.

Currently making the rounds is the finding that among women ages 40-59, overdiagnosis of breast cancer from screening mammograms costs $4 billion annually -- much higher than previously documented. This discovery further fuels the debate over the value of mammograms.

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The bank teller asked me, "Where's your camera?" Thus began my most recent cancer spiel.

For almost a decade I wore my camera everywhere, ready for a photo op. It could be the female cattle egret in breeding coloration, moseying around my supermarket's parking lot:

It could be a pair of ibises nonchalantly crossing the street:

Or a Southern Emerald Moth relaxing on the post office window:

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I took my partner to the podiatrist on Friday. As we waited in the examination room for the doctor, she asked me to read to her from the "blue foot" poster, a drawing of a foot with markings in blue where the bones are labeled.

I stood up and craned my neck to read the label she wanted.


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When A Hospital Changes Hands

My partner was going in for routine blood work, which we've had done for years at a collection station less than a mile from home. This time, when we walked in, a note tacked up on a partition told us to see the registration desk immediately.

There, we were told that the collection station -- and all of our hospital's outpatient services -- are now "out of network." Our hospital had recently been acquired, but neither the hospital, nor its new owner, nor our insurer had updated us directly as to any changes in coverage.

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One Year Out

A year ago today I received "the call" from my GP. I don't remember her exact words, but "They found cancer" comes close. Her delivery of bad news stood out for its brevity.

My response, even more brief, was, "What stage?" I had no idea that we wouldn't know the stage for a while yet. I just wanted to know how bad the bad news was -- as in, was I going to die any time soon?


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