Strange as this will sound, there have been some benefits to having cancer.
I always wondered what I’d look like with short hair, but I was never willing to take the chance and cut it. Cancer didn’t give me much choice. Now, my hair is growing back, and I like the pixie. I’m going to keep it short, I think.
Thanks to the stress, I lost nearly 30 lbs. I really needed to lose weight, and truthfully, I need to lose another 20-30 lbs. Today, I was able to wear a pair of shorts I haven’t worn in over two years because I’ve lost so much weight.
My oncology center provides complimentary oncology massages once a week to patients undergoing treatment. I’ve been having some trouble with my left shoulder. I carry tension in my shoulders. I took advantage of the massage therapy. It helped, but honestly, not enough to deal with the tension there, especially last night and today.
I’ve said before that I work really hard everyday to find some peace and happiness, and it’s true. Peace and happiness do not come naturally to me. I wish they did. Maybe I wouldn’t have cancer if they did. A well-meaning person told me stress can cause cancer. I gave them a blank stare…the same stare I give my students when they say something completely off-the-wall.
Still, they could be right. Who knows?
Yesterday afternoon and evening were rough. I don’t know why. They just were. I haven’t cried over my diagnosis in quite awhile.
I cried last night.
I sat on our bed and sobbed while A played with my hair to calm me down. It came out of the blue and lasted for a few minutes.
Then, I put myself back together.
I told A I needed to go into the living room and just be by myself for awhile. I curled up on the recliner, thought about playing World of Warcraft (I’ve played on and off since WoW’s launch), and ended up watching The Martian for the hundredth time. Sitting there, watching the movie soothed me some. It helped close some of the cracks, the fissures in my invisible armor. Then, this morning came.
Dr. O set up an echocardiogram for me on June 28th prior to my infusion appointment. It should be my last echo. It *should* be.
I’m terrified of it.
A few months ago, there were news stories of a young mother who had died from breast cancer. Two years prior, she had been diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer. Right before her last Herceptin treatment, they discovered the cancer had returned and spread to her liver. They found the mets during her last echo when the tech had to angle the wand to see around her implants.
That news story is stuck in my brain. It. Will. Not. Go. Away. I know her story is not mine. While our cancer types are the same, there are differences…important differences. She was diagnosed with grade 3 (not stage…grade. Remember, there are grades and stages in breast cancer. 3 grades. 4 stages (or five if you count Stage 0-DCIS)). Mine, both the HER2 and ER, are grade 2. She did AC-TH. I did TCHP. The HER2 cancer, the bad actor, as Dr. H called it, was completely gone when I had my bilateral mastectomy. All that was left was the ER+ we didn’t know was there. Yes, the HER2 had a high proliferation rate, but not terrifyingly high (at least not to me). The ER+ had a loooooowwww proliferation rate (hence why I wasn’t put back on chemo). I know, I KNOW, there are differences. But knowing her story scares me. I read an article where she gave an interview before she died, and the article said, “But with her type of cancer, new tumors are inevitable. It’s a question of when, not whether…”
I can’t get those sentences out of my head. Is that true? Is that my future? My rational brain says no and reminds me I have two friends who are 10 and 11 year survivors of HER2 positive cancer, one of them a survivor of an incredibly aggressive, rare form of breast cancer (she survived stage 3b HER2+ inflammatory breast cancer). Are they the outliers? Or, do I only know bad stories because that’s what’s out there? My rational brain says yes. A friend on FB recently told me to remember there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women walking around who are survivors of HER2 breast cancer. I’m just as likely to be one them as I am to be one who dies from it. Right?
Added to my mental gymnastics, Dr. L’s office called to schedule my reconstruction. Finally. It’s been a back and forth for over two weeks with his office. I needed my surgery scheduled around a week-long training I HAVE to go to in July. I love the myth teachers have the whole summer off and get paid for doing nothing. I’ve already been to two trainings this summer, worked at my school for an entire day, have a training next week, and I’m 7 days into summer break. I don’t mind because I love what I do, and the training in July is one I’m very excited to attend. In May, when I saw Dr. L, I made it very clear the surgery had to be scheduled around the July training. He told me it wasn’t a problem, and his scheduler would get it on the schedule. I didn’t hear another word until I called at the scheduler, found out she had been on vacation, and the person filling in hadn’t done much with my surgery in the two weeks since I saw Dr. L.
She told me it was likely my surgery would need to be pushed to August. NOPE! I threw a fit on the phone. A polite fit, but a fit, because I do not want to miss the first day of school. So, after two weeks of phone calls every couple of days, my reconstruction is scheduled. I should be happy about it…right?
The last time I had this surgery scheduled I came home with tissue expanders because they discovered cancer in my lymph nodes. So…
Cancer is, as I’ve said before, a mind game. Some days, you neither win nor lose. I feel like last night was one of those nights and that today is one of those days. I didn’t win the mind game. I didn’t lose the mind game. It was a draw because I’m not completely beaten. I’m just bruised.
Sometimes, that has to be enough.