Raise your hand if you’re a cancer survivor. If you’re reading this, you probably have an intimate relationship with the green-eyed monster, whether it’s you or your loved one.
During my first breast cancer diagnosis, I focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. I remember counting down weeks for recovering from surgery or chemotherapy, thinking it was the number of weeks until I got my old life back.
You veterans are smiling right now; because once you’ve had cancer, your “old life” doesn’t exist anymore. But hey, I was only 29 – I didn’t know that yet!
Now I am a 34-year old wife and mom living with metastatic breast cancer. I receive my day-to-day treatment in Dallas where I live, but I travel to MD Anderson in Houston every three months for a PET scan and reevaluation. We manage to make a family event of our trips to Houston, enjoying two nights in a hotel and exploring new restaurants. This trip, Chris and I left our son with his grandparents so we could also celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary with a nice Galveston hotel and a fancy dinner (without a nacho-throwing toddler!)
In the two years since I was deemed incurable, I have tried to focus on living my life rather than the fear of it being taken away. Most days two-year-old Henry keeps me too busy to have idle hands and mind, but there are times even my “Pollyanna” mom can’t help me ignore those dark thoughts.
This would be one of those times.
Today the fun is over. We have checked out of our nice hotel, and are on our way to the cancer center. In a few hours, I will receive the verdict of yesterday’s scan. It all boils down to one simple, yet very complicated question: IS THE MEDICINE WORKING?
My last scan said NO. So in the five months since, I started a new drug regimen, had a laparoscopic hysterectomy, had a brief hospital stay with pneumonia (supposedly not related to my cancer), and tweaked my dosage on multiple occasions to try and keep the crazy new side effects at bay. We also celebrated Henry’s second birthday, my 34th birthday, traveled to Pensacola and Phoenix, and lived through a complete kitchen renovation. HA!
When I write it all out…I am pretty much painting the picture of a crazy person! But remember what I said about idle hands and mind? I do like to keep busy.
Last night as I lay in bed, I kept running through my checklist of new aches, pains and irritations and guessing whether they are attributed to the cancer, the medicine or the germs Henry brings home from Mother’s Day Out. My itchy hands and annoying mouth sores are side effects, but is my cough from last month’s cold or swollen lymph nodes? Is my trouble sleeping a side effect or just a touch of anxiety? What about my recurring headache? Medicine or cancer in my skull?
If it’s not a good scan, we will switch medicines again, and I will get a whole new list of side effects to manage. I will also cross one more off the very finite list of drugs available for my kind of cancer. At last count, I was one drug away from the chemo chair. (And darn it, my summer hair highlights look great!) But Pollyanna reminds me of what my doctors all say – new drugs are coming down the pipeline.
If it is a good scan, I get to breathe a little easier this summer, at least until I’m back here for my next round of scanxiety.