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One Year Out

ejourneys's picture

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?

The diagnosis didn't shock me. I had been mentally preparing myself ever since I had been told I needed a biopsy. If it was cancer, I wanted to know about it as soon as possible so that I could do something about it. The call from my GP had come in the morning; I drove in to see her that afternoon. She handed me my pathology report and offered to make an appointment for me then and there with a surgeon.

I told her that I wanted to make that choice myself and asked her how long I had before she needed my decision. We have a local surgical group, but there is also a large cancer center about 75 miles away. I ultimately chose my surgeon from the local group after several hours of online research.

That same day I made two phone calls. The first was to the American Cancer Society's resource center; the second was to the facilitator of my breast cancer support group. I posted on Facebook that I had been given my marching orders and asked for fight vibes. In the middle of the night I composed and faxed a memo to my GP, giving her my first and second choice of surgeon. I got my first choice.

There followed the whirlwind that comes right after diagnosis, a blur of preparation and decision making and the research I did in my attempt to make my best informed decisions. In the midst of that whirlwind, two days after my surgical consult, I attended my first breast cancer support group meeting. The announcements portion of that meeting included welcoming newbies like me. It also included recognizing those members celebrating cancerversaries that month and marking how long it had been since their own diagnoses.

I had just started my first cancer year. What I felt was not that different from how I had felt as a Kindergartener, taking my first school bus ride and looking over at the big kids, the ones in second grade. Even one year out was difficult for me to fathom. I still had surgery and radiation ahead of me; later I would learn that six months of chemo would lengthen my time in active treatment.

My year was chopped up into discrete steps and a series of labors. Get through surgery. Heal from surgery. Get through four Adriamycin/Cytoxan infusions (and, within that, get through each three-week cycle). Get through 12 weekly Taxol infusions. Get through 33 rounds of radiation. Get through follow-up scans.

And suddenly I'm here, at this one-year-out milestone.

Yesterday in the early evening I was in bed for a fatigue-induced quasi-nap. Not sleeping, just lying there feeling drained for a while. That still occurs from time to time. I wouldn't be surprised if the date was making some psychological impact. I had also spoken with a dear friend who is hospitalized and about whom I had been very concerned for a couple of weeks.

Among the information I gave him were patient advocate resources: the ADVOConnection Directory and Patient Advocate Foundation.

My friend does not have cancer, though he deals with a chronic, degenerative illness. He asked, "How did you learn about these?"

I had learned about those sites through a breast cancer social media (#bcsm) chat, part of the educational odyssey I've been on this past year. One fellow caregiver has said that we are PhDs in our carees, and caregiving has given me one info-packed layer of learning. Being a patient and researching my own illness has made me something of a postdoc.

One year out, there are days unremarkable for their ordinariness. I live my life much the way I always have -- a bit slower, a bit more health-conscious in general. But I also get Twilight Zone moments, as in, "How could I have possibly had cancer? That's just weird." I may as well have been abducted by aliens and held hostage on a UFO parked in orbit around Gliese 163c (or any other exoplanet) for nine months. Suddenly I'm back on Earth, back among the familiar and mundane, but with evidence that strange things have been done to me, and because of that I am irrevocably changed.

I have boldly gone where -- well, where many have gone before. But still.

On other days I am Certified Cancer Patient (TM), profoundly aware of what I've experienced and wearing this latest in my collection of identity hats. Going from "alien abductee" to CCP and back again can happen lightning fast. It's like whiplash.

As part of my more mundane existence, I have finally had my inaugural colonoscopy and have passed it with flying colors -- well, one color at least. As I posted on Facebook, I could write erotica about the experience and title it, "Fifty Shades of Brown."

I had been concerned due to my extensive abdominal surgery back in 1966. My breast surgeon (who also performed the colonoscopy, making him my T and A specialist) told me that I was "a little twisty" in there, but nothing had posed a problem. I did, however, need extra anesthesia, and my legs had been moving about during the procedure.

But that is done now, and I don't need another one for ten years, knock on wood. Saline solution and anesthesia had been delivered via my chemo port.

(Two nights after the procedure I dreamt that I again went for a colonoscopy, only this time it was in a non-sterile space -- a shop front, really -- beneath a subway el. The setting was monochromatic and had a sooty look to it. This "clinic" was staffed by two women, a doctor and a nurse.

As I lay on my side on a gurney, I remembered and blurted out that I hadn't done any of the prep, and that I had already had a colonoscopy. The doctor assured me that this didn't matter, and that I had already made an appointment for this colonoscopy. She proceeded to perform it without anesthesia.

I watched shadowy figures on a monitor above her and had no idea what I was seeing. Whatever the scope was showing, it looked like a vague ultrasound.

I "passed" the dream-colonoscopy, too. The doctor told me to return in 4-1/2 years. I argued back that I didn't have to return for ten years. She countered that I "had an appointment.")

My next real appointment is with my "T and A man" next week.

The second meeting of my Creativity Heals group was a smorgasbord of fabulous work that included knitting, crocheting, fabric arts, scrapbooking, photography, writing, and painting both digital and non. I'll post photos once I get permission. The optional prompt for the meeting was "Sunshine." Here's my response:


Full size. The egret is a tracing from the photo I took here.

This article and this video tell more about the group. The prompt for our March meeting is "Home."

My TinkerLab TinkerSketch Sketchbook Challenge doodles continue --now for March. Back in February, for the prompt "Upside Down":


Full size. I traced the sand castle from an image I took off the Web.

For the prompt "Fluffy":

Full size.

More art pieces from the challenge are here.

Comments

Jean-Luc's picture

I always find reading your blog fascinating! :)

Pixie Dust's picture

EJ, you are still going strong and love to read everytime you post.

I love all your pictures.  Hugs, Pixie

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