Thursday, August 27, 2009

8/27/2009: The Result

With my head against my steering wheel I listened to the sound of my tears hitting against the paper on my lap. *Pat, pat, pat*

I took another breath and no sound came out of my body as another wave of emotion rushed over me. It was as though I was screaming under water and the noise was encapsulated in each tiny bubble that rushed from my mouth up toward the surface of the water.

I crumpled the piece of paper and clutched it to my chest. I repeated the last sentence aloud three times – No evidence of metastatic disease. No evidence of metastatic disease. No evidence of metastatic disease.

I had once again threw cancer the middle finger, ran like the gingerbread man, passed “Go” and collected $200 and cheated death – my PETScan was normal. For once being normal is more than good enough for me.

I had my PETScan last Friday at Reston Hospital. It was supposed to be two weeks ago, but there were some miscommunications and approvals that needed to happen with my new health insurance. Thanks Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO for the complication! So for the last two weeks I have been unable to eat or sleep well due to my anxiety over the pending test. So, I finally had my test on Friday and it was the same routine I have gone through time and time again – fasting, IV, blood sugar check, radioactive injection, wait 45 minutes, under the machine for 25 with my arms over my head in a freezing trailer.

The test showed no cancer and no significant change from my last “clean” PETScan. It did find a new postop change in the left buttock (from my bypass and transplant surgery in May) simply indicating a new surgical site. One finding I was not expecting was that the radiation damage to my left lung has “decreased significantly since prior study.” This is the area my oncologist wanted to keep an eye on to make sure it healed properly.

Who knew my little body had so much vigor after all these months of treatment!?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

8/6/09: Practicing My Poker Face

The past few weeks it has been a challenge to keep my poker face. I notice that I am having trouble eating, sleeping and controling my emotions. Just this week I became very biting in conversations with two people close to me – annoying and confusing them. I try so hard to control what I am feeling, or express it in a coherent way, but I never seem to get it right.

I have a friend who battled testicular cancer over the past month. He is athletic, vibrant, young and successful – but not safe from cancer. I met him the night he was diagnosed and talked with him until the early hours of the morning while he suffered from insomnia leading up to the beginning of his radiation. He had surgery and three weeks of radiation and is healing beautifully. He still is baffled by the fact that he had cancer. I told him that would never go away.

Two other friends I met via my blog while going through treatment have both been diagnosed again with cancer. One friend has colorectal cancer and recently they found nodules that were abnormal. He has started chemotherapy again. And my dear girlfriend who kicked cancer’s butt and was growing out the most beautiful brunette locks found another lump. Despite aggressive chemotherapy and a bilateral mastectomy – residual cancer remained in her body. She will undergo radiation and then additional chemotherapy. She is one of the most amazing women I know. As I listened to her news over the phone I wrapped my other arm tightly around my heaving torso. I listened to her complain about having a new scar and not being able to wear slutty tops anymore and how she was going to be sad if she had to “shave her mullet and start from scratch.” We grasp to those things which are easiest for us to wrap our thoughts around – unfortunately this isn’t something that can be wrapped neatly with a bow placed on top. She continues to say that she has three reasons for doing all this again – her husband and two beautiful children. She is such a beautiful person.

I ache for my friends, but selfishly I fear for my own future. It is easy for me to block out pieces of the last nineteen months and blend in with all the other almost-30-somethings. You can’t see my scars and my short bob (now filled with sunkissed red highlights) does not show evidence of ever having had chemotherapy. I look normal – but I am far from it. I survived breast cancer as a 26 year old and I continue to deal with the physical and psychological scars. I am still anemic, my arm swells from lymphadema, my nails are still discolored and brittle, any injuries take SO much longer to heal, my left breast has a dent, my tastebuds are different – but I am alive and no longer look sick.

Tomorrow I will have a PETScan. It has been four months since my last one and I am extremely nervous considering the recent news of my friends. I continue to think positively, because that’s all I know how to do, but it doesn’t change the fact that the fear still exists. Just because I look healthy, doesn’t mean that this is over for me. My journey continues ...