Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Talking to Myself and Getting Old

I am making my usual arrangements to prepare for my upcoming oncology related appointments.

First, I called to change the appointment time. I always change the appointment time. I am not trying to be difficult, though I am sure that my file says “patient is difficult about scheduling.” They scheduled my lab work for 11:00 AM. I ALWAYS ask for early or late appointments. I know that some cancer patients are retired and are able to come by anytime, but that isn’t me. I am a busy girl, and I have things to do! Cancer appointments are never a single appointment, and I can’t devote three days to middle-of-the-day appointments. Luckily, they were able to bump my lab work to 8:45 AM.

Secondly, I think I need a new PET Scan outfit. I have to wear clothes without clasps or zippers – so basically gym clothes. I had my winter “PET Scan” outfit, but I think I need a warmer weather outfit. The room is always cold though, so no shorts. And crazy socks are a must. Also, I can’t wear a bra during my PET, so I don’t want a top that is too revealing. No amount of revealing clothing will improve the results. I must shop this weekend.

My last appointment is the meeting with the Doctor to discuss results. I think I have mentioned before that he is not chatty. So if I don’t specifically ask questions, he might say something vague like “Nothing too concerning.” With him, it’s critically important to make a list of questions. Important things such as “Can I get some more of that Ativan?” “Why did my hair not turn red? I wanted it to grow back red!” “Can you write me a note to give me a few months off for medical reasons?” Ok, so those aren’t my real questions. But I do need to get my thoughts together concerning maintenance therapy, primary care vs. oncologist, etc.

The good news is, all of these appointments will be finished on August 4th, just in time for my Birthday on the 5th! I’m a little excited about my Birthday this year – there was a moment or two this year when I wondered if I would make it to celebrate the big 29th Birthday… ha ha ha …

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning

I’ve started this post about three times now and it just isn’t coming together. It ends up being a mish mash of too many thoughts, and doesn’t follow a logical flow. But maybe that’s the point. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I feel disjointed and confused and it’s coming across in my writing.

This upcoming week starts the triple-header of appointments that makes up my three-month post cancer follow-up. I have a full panel of bloodwork, a PET Scan, and an appointment with the oncologist to discuss the results. I will be so happy to get this over with and move forward. It feels like a monkey on my back right now. The tests are only confirming what is or isn’t going on with me, so worrying about the actual tests is stupid on my part. But logic isn’t in control right now.

This week also brings the four year anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I’m sad, of course. I miss him. And I also feel sad because this is an even rougher week for my Mom. That being said, I feel like I need to not let the sadness consume me. I have fought like Hell this past year to survive. That is what he would have wanted and I know somewhere he’s proud of me. So for him, I will make sure I spend some time doing things he would appreciate. I will make my own pickles, eat a little too much cake, watch a sci-fi movie with the volume way too loud, and laugh with my whole body. Because that is one of the things I miss the most about him – the full body belly laugh.

My cousin Lisa and her family came through Hickory on their way back from the beach. It was great to have them visit. Some of my best childhood memories were with my cousins. We hadn’t talked in years, and just recently got reconnected. It was fun to have the sound of her children filling the house. My dogs are not used to being around “little people” and are still trying to recover from all the excitement! I am enjoying getting to know her as a grown-up, though I still picture us as grubby kids getting into trouble!

In other news, I am having a hard time with the whole daily grind. It seems overwhelming at times. The work week is filled with work, vet appointments for Zoe, dental appointments, construction in our backyard, and errands. It seems like I am racing around constantly. Part of this stress probably stems from PMS and this ungodly heat wave we’ve been having. Chemotherapy sent my body into temporarily false menopause, and that just ended. So I think I’m experiencing about six months of PMS all at once.

To sum it up, I feel happy, scared, overwhelmed, and bitchy. But I am here to feel it, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Girl Who Lived

It is hot. It is in the 90s almost every day. And it’s humid. Sometimes I have flashbacks that I’m living in Florida again. Wearing a wig in this heat is a real pain in the ass. I’ve got a little hair now, so more and more I am just going without the wig. I do carry it with me, but it’s usually on my desk, in my purse, or in the car on the passenger’s seat.

The other morning I was driving through Starbucks with my wig sitting in the passenger’s seat. As the drive-thru guy handed out my coffee he proclaimed “Is that your little dog?!?”, in reference to the wig. Had I been quick on my feet, I would have said yes and would have asked him if he wanted to pet it. But I wasn’t, and just responded with a no and a chuckle.

Cancer still mentally consumes my thoughts far too much. I am trying to move forward with life. But it’s more difficult than I anticipated. It’s like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am anxiously awaiting my next scan and follow-up appointment. It’s supposed to be scheduled for late July/early August. I know that the cancer was gone right after the chemo, and that the radiation was another measure to keep it away. Now that some time has passed, it will be comforting to get confirmation that the plan really worked and that it really has stayed gone.

I still participate in a website/online community of cancer bloggers. I check in on the status of my fellow non-hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) friends regularly. Some are ahead of me in their progress – for example, one just got her first haircut post-chemo! Others are receiving chemotherapy or just finishing up. But so far, the folks I’ve come to know very well in our little group are alive and kicking. And that brings a lot of comfort. Recently, a new woman joined that has had NHL for many years. She is on about her fifth type of chemotherapy. I know that not everyone is cured, but now having someone in my little group who isn’t doing as well is scary for me. It reminds me that cancer can come back, and not everyone has a happy ending.

I try not to talk about this too much. After all, I’m the girl who lived! Why am I not running through the streets and shouting from the rooftops? And trust me, 95% of the time I am feeling nothing but gratitude and joy for the life I have. I believe I am the luckiest girl in the world. But I can’t ignore the fact that just 9 months ago I was diagnosed with a disease that had the potential to be terminal. And I spent 7 months going through hell to get rid of it. It’s hard to just bounce back and pretend it never happened. No matter how hard I try.

I think it is only natural to experience a bit of post-traumatic stress. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I feel this way. After all, it’s not even two full months after my last radiation treatment.

Only time can heal these feelings. Time and champagne. Because who can be melancholy while drinking champagne?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

This week I went to see my radiation oncologist for my post-radiation follow-up appointment. It was a quick visit. I reported that I was experiencing no further side-effects from radiation. I was told by the radiation oncologist that unless I felt some sort of need, that I was released from their care considering my regular oncologist would be performing my follow-up scans and any necessary maintenance treatment. It is nice to have one less doctor. One step closer to freedom from cancer!

I do still have a bit of post-cancer anxiety. Anyone who has been in this situation will probably attest to having a bit of paranoia that the cancer will return. Early this week I had a little lump under my right armpit. For about two days I was terrified that it was a swollen lymph node and had planned on calling my oncologist by the end of the week if it didn’t go away. It has since disappeared and was probably a pimple or a minor sweat gland issue. Not unexpected with the hormonal changes that happen with chemotherapy and new hair growth in the area. And pre-cancer, I would not have given it a second thought. But these are different times now.

In the cancer community, we have coined a term that describes how we feel as we approach our next PET Scan appointment: Scanxiety. We all anxiously await our next scan to hear the words that are golden: No Evidence of Disease (NED).

In the meantime though, I have to focus on the business of living! This week has been good in that regard. Number one on that list is the joy that has been brought in watching my dear sweet Zoe bounce back after being diagnosed with diabetes. I have watched her go from being lethargic and achy and uninterested in anything, to being playful and full of life. The insulin is working and it has given her a spark that has been missing for far too long!

This week I also served as a juror. And although I felt bad that I was missing work yet again, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the experience. It was a civil case that lasted about four days. I liked the chance to learn about the process. I was also fascinated that twelve people who had never met could work together so well to agree on outcome.

I am off to enjoy the three day weekend. I know that this year, the thoughts of independence and freedom have a different meaning for me.

Happy holiday to you and yours!