All I do is THINK.
And take tests, go to appointments, have my plans changed; wait. And think.
I think about the future, both immediate and far away. I think of the past, of the could have, would have, should haves. Of the nevers. Of the always.
I think about the maybes. All of the maybes. The never-ending possibilities and alternate endings.
I see myself, my true self. My physical self, too. I see without filters, without platitudes, and without doubt.
I don’t hope. I accept and work through and prepare.
Preparation, you see, is the key. Without it, you can never unlock the next door. Hope can hold you back because you may not be able to accept, and acceptance, that is the lock awaiting preparation’s key.
Don’t believe me? Think back to the last time you truly held out hope and your heart was broken, you weren’t prepared for the next step, and you couldn’t accept the situation at hand. Once acceptance happens, the door unlocks and you can move forward. Good news, bad news, mundane existential crises, life, death, heaven, hell, purgatory. They are all the same. The ability to clearly see yourself, to see others, to accept, that is how you gain the ability to keep your sanity as you place one foot in front of the next. Without clarity, preparation, and acceptance, you simply stop going.
That won’t work.
So I think, I work through, I see.
For every test, there is an answer.
I had 3 CT scans and a bone scan on Thursday, followed by an echocardiogram on Friday. Perhaps it’s high time for some words of wisdom to my team regarding the use of imaging scans two weeks post mastectomy/reconstruction when the patient hasn’t yet begun to lay flat. Because that shit hurts. It Hurts!
I had a little panic attack looking at the CT machine, realizing that the tech had no idea how afraid I was at the possibility of laying down, that there were no muscle relaxers in my system to ease the spasms that soon rippled through my chest. It is such a simple test, and really should’ve been so relaxing, except for the still-healing muscles, newly excised from the bones, the implants, the incisions that felt as though they were tearing, the spasms. This should’ve been done before. It is all I can think. No breathing, because not only can I barely breathe for the pain, the instructions force me to attempt holding my breath. The end, as I reeled from the nausea of the contrast injected into my veins and the fear and the pain, was far too long coming. The tech got frustrated as I, through clenched teeth, gasped/choked/pled/barked that she had better not pull my arm to help me sit up, that my muscles aren’t ready, that I needed her to put her hand behind my back to help me up. Tears burned my eyes.
I rested till the next test. It went well. For some reason, it didn’t hurt.
The echocardiogram was to get a baseline of how my heart functions and looks before treatment, so that when I am done, the damage can be measured. That was a punch in the gut. I realized that it is expected that I’ll have heart damage. The oncologist had already explained that I will have neuropathy. I can’t escape certain things, it seems. Knowledge is power, though. At least I know these things before they happen; I loathe surprises. I had my first case, in my thirty-nine years of life, of stress-induced full body hives last night. It seemed like a good idea to wash the allergy pill down with a shot of whiskey. I was right.
I had K cut my hair into an Audrey Hepburn-Ginnifer Goodwin pixie after the echo. Because I rock it.
The test results are in, I’ve been informed, and will get full details soon.
One more test will confirm the news.
It seems I have Stage IV breast cancer. It is in two bones, unless I somehow managed to develop cysts in my sternum and in the spinal process of my fifth thoracic vertebrae. The odds of that are maddeningly slim.
I’ve cried. A lot. In fact, I had about five minutes of feeling sorry for myself before calling my father and grandmother, letting a very small group of friends know. It wasn’t until three hours later that the call from my surgeon, which went really well and was informative, till I realized what it all meant. He didn’t even mention the stage because I didn’t ask. Let me be clear on two things:
- I am extremely grateful that my surgeon spent part of his Saturday reviewing my scans and calling to tell me the results and what to expect. This is so far above and beyond (for the second time, I might add!) what most doctors would do, and I am forever grateful.
- There is no room for doubt. If the MRI confirms that these are cancerous areas and not cysts, then it is Stage IV. Period.
Then I felt extraordinarily guilty for having dropped that bomb and invading their Saturday with this selfish bit of news.
So there it is.
Stunning, isn’t it?
(Here is another basic explanation)
It means radiation is no longer an option, but a requirement for the bones. It changes the chemotherapy some. It means I’m always going to be on the lookout for cancer forever.
It sucks. But weirdly, I feel a little more free.