An astute friend texted me on Tuesday to check on me before my doctor’s appointment. When I told her I was there alone but still intended to ask my questions, she texted me back one question: Are you sure you’re ready to hear the answers by yourself?
I answered her honestly. No. But, I needed to ask and hear. So, I went to see Dr. O by myself, armed with my questions, and quaking with nervous energy.
When I got there, I found a surprise, and as much as I hate surprises, this was a good one. A woman who had been my assistant principal when I was a high schooler was there. I’ve known her most of my life…since I was at least eight. She and my mom worked together for a long time. She was a rock for me when I was a high school student, and she’s been a rock for me since I was diagnosed. She’s a breast cancer survivor. I knew she had an appointment on Tuesday, but her appointment was hours before mine. I didn’t expect to see her, but there she was when I finished checking in.
She sat with me for quite awhile, and we talked. Or, rather, she talked while I listened. She talked to me about my fears. She understands them, but her perspective is so different from mine. She told me I have to realize I have no control over any of this. There’s no illusion of control. She told me I have to make peace with it and realize if and when it’s my time, it’s my time. No one wants it to be their time, but everyone has their time. She told me all I can control is how I treat myself and what I do to help myself. Right now, I’m not treating myself well, and I’m certainly not helping myself. She told me I have to remember that cancer may not define my end. Her husband is a police officer, and he once told her she had to stop fearing he would be shot at work when it was just as likely he could be mowing their lawn and be hit by a car that missed the curve by their house. She told me she often comes back to that conversation because it’s just as true for her…and me. She told me she understands how hard it is to live life again after cancer, treatments, surgeries, appointments, and what-ifs. She told me I have to rely on faith or find a source of strength. She told me I have to, at some point, choose to live instead of being trapped by my fear because if it’s my time, it’s my time.
That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
They called me back, and she offered to stay with me. I told her I would be okay. She made me promise to text her if I wanted company, gave me two long, much needed, hugs, and then headed on her way.
I didn’t see Dr. O. I ended up seeing her nurse practitioner, who I’ve seen before. Before I could ask anything, we realized that my chart had gotten very messed up since my surgery. We spent a good thirty minutes going back through my chart with eagle eyes. Then, she opened the can of worms and asked me, “How are you feeling?”
“Tired. I’m fatigued. I’m stressed. I’m scared. What are we doing to monitor me now? How do we know things are working? Is it dangerous for me to delay the oophrecotomy until December or beyond? What do I do now? I don’t know what to do.”
It all just spilled out.
She solved the fatigue puzzle with a look at my blood work. My counts are low. I’m very anemic. I’ve been anemic since October, but my counts had been getting better or holding steady at just below normal. Not now. They’re low. I confessed I hadn’t been taking iron because I figured it was okay to stop it since chemo was done in January. I got glared at for that brilliant move and was ordered to go back on iron. Immediately. And, I am to stay on it until a medical professional tells me to stop it, which, she told me, would likely not be until next November. She told me she wouldn’t be surprised if my counts take up to six months to rebound. I asked if it was normal to have counts like this so far out from chemo and was reminded I went straight from chemo to surgery to radiation. My body has taken a beating and a burning. My counts are low. It happens. So, they’re going to watch it a little closer.
Some vitamins are low as well. I’ve been told to start drinking a small glass of orange juice everyday.
The stress is on me. I’m doing it to myself. I’m trying to do everything full on and not asking for help or admitting how fatigued I really am to anyone. I was told to take a muscle relaxer to deal with the sore neck and shoulder muscles and to get some stress free rest. Sleep. I laughed because nothing about life is stress free right now. I was told to figure it out because I’m hurting myself.
A colleague sent me an email on Tuesday night reminding me about a training I need to attend this summer. I replied back I might not make it because I might be less than two weeks out from major surgery and asked if it’s going to be a problem. She replied with “No, and bless you for trying to be at everything even when it’s obvious you don’t feel good or are just exhausted.” I guess that’s a prime example of me stressing out and over doing.
Then, we talked about my fears and how they’re monitoring me. I swear she and my family friend must have been thought sharing because the nurse practitioner told me nearly the same thing. I have no control over any of this. I could get in my car to drive home and be in a wreck in the highway. If it’s my time, it’s my time. She told me I have to have a source of strength. She told me to remember who my oncologist is and to remember why I wanted to be with Dr. O. She told me I have to know Dr. O is watching me closely and will see me regularly. If it reoccurs, it was going to happen. She told me the only things I can do to control it are to exercise, eat better, and lose another 20 or 30 pounds. But, again, she told me, if it’s my time, it’s my time. She said there’s no rhyme or reason to cancer or if it reoccurs. She said I need to tell myself I have a chronic illness, and like any chronic illness, it’s going to require treatments.
That’s another bitter pill to swallow.
I hate…loathe…despise the fact that I have cancer. I don’t understand why I got a ticket to this roller coaster. I don’t understand why any of us end up on this ride. I seethe sometimes with how angry it makes me, or I quake with how much fear it engenders in me.
I’ve lost my youthful sense of immortality. I’ve lost my ability to see a future where I grow old with A or see S and AJ grow up. It’s impossible for me, right now, to see beyond my fear of “what if it comes back?” and I have to move beyond that fear.
I have to accept if it’s my time, it’s my time.
But, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I wasn’t ready to hear those words.
Those are the words I needed to hear, though.