Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Things To Remember When You're Diagnosed With Cancer

I have cancer.  It just showed up one day without permission, and set up shop in my left breast.  Then it hit the road via my lymph nodes, which is what cancer tends to do.  Having cancer has been a huge learning experience for me, although I would have been happy to never know about any of it.  I've read books and talked to people, in my efforts to be prepared.  There are some things that I wish I would have known about cancer before I got it, but we all tend to ignore such things when they don't directly involve us.  Until it happens to us.  I wish that I had known a few bits of information before I was diagnosed. 

1. There are lots of tests.  And they're not the kind of tests you can study for.  I've had several mammograms, plus sonograms, CT scans, MRIs,  and PET scans.  And blood tests, lots of blood tests.  For the last two months, I've been tested way more than I ever would have thought possible. I imagine that I'll have more tests once the chemo starts. And I cannot count the number of men who have seen my unclothed breasts lately.  They're doctors, and it's a simple examination,  but I'm not used to whipping out a boob upon request.  Or having men I barely know fondle my breast looking for the mass that is my cancer, or checking my sutures, or whatever. At least when I was dating, I got dinner and a movie first.

2. There are lots of needles.  If you have a needle phobia, you will either get over it or you will die. Every time you turn around, someone will be drawing your blood, injecting you with something, starting an IV, etc.  Because of the onslaught of needles, your veins will start trying to hide, or they will simply collapse at the most inopportune moments.  Your arms will look horrible with all of the bruising from people attempting to locate veins.  If you end up with a mediport in your chest, that's something entirely new.  You will feel a bit like a cyborg, with that little piece of plastic in you.  But it will take some of the pressure off your veins, so just get used to it. That's where they will stick the needles after that.

3. Get ready to glow. I have been injected with radioactive dyes, radioactive glucose, etc.  I have been injected in my arm.  I've been injected right in the breast(Are you wincing right now? Yeah. So did I.), so the dye would travel to the right lymph nodes. No super powers have emerged, much to my chagrin.  And when you're radioactive, it completely screws up your day. You're not allowed to be around people.  If you actually have a family, they have to stay ten to fifteen feet away from you, especially children.  You can't be around pregnant women, either.  I'm sure that if I went to the airport, some alarm would sound. Part of me really, really, really wants to test that theory. After all, I tripped the nuclear detector at the White House; I have a reputation to uphold.

4. You will have all the feels.  All of them.  Think of PMS and dial it up to 11. Emotions that I didn't even know existed have surfaced since my diagnosis.  I'm terrified, sad, angry, and anxious simultaneously.  Half the time I can't even begin a sentence with the word 'cancer' in it; my eyes tear up and my voice suddenly jumps into the upper octaves as I try to fight a sudden tendency to bawl.  Even if I'm not discussing my diagnosis, random things will have me bursting into tears.  It's downright embarrassing. The rest of the time, I just want to punch someone right in the face, for no other reason than I have cancer and they don't.  It's not right, but the emotion is there.

5. Get used to waiting. And waiting. And then waiting some more.  First there's the wait while all the tests are completed.  Then there's the wait for the surgery.  After the surgery there's another wait, so you can heal, and also so they can make sure that the cancer they removed did not expand into the surrounding tissue.  If it did, you have more surgery.  I opted for a lumpectomy, and after two surgeries, they still haven't cut all the cancer out of my breast. So even though I went the easiest route for me, I'm ending up with a mastectomy with reconstruction.  Except I have to wait until after the chemo and the radiation for the reconstruction.  And I have to wait until I've healed from the mastectomy to start chemo. 

Maybe I'm supposed to learn patience from all this.  God could have just sent me a memo. 

13 comments:

  1. NO! I am so ______ (fill in the blank as you see fit) that they didn't get all of it!!! xoxoxoxox

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  2. The waiting must be terrible. You want the doctors to just take it away!

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    1. Yes, that is exactly it. I want it all gone!

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  3. I've always heard that patience is a virtue. I know it is a survival skill. I hate you having to go through this. It is quite a life challenge to through a major illness. I am praying for you kid.

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    1. Thank you--I need all the help I can get, and I appreciate it!

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  4. UGH. I can't even imagine.

    But I can say I had to be injected with the radioactive dye for a moment while they did my CT scan. I also had to drink it, and the farts were fatally toxic. I farted under the covers and Tony actually lifted them up to see if there was a cloud of neon green under there.

    So totally not the same, but hopefully I made you laugh. :)

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  5. Well, dang! I'm so sorry you have to undergo more surgery.

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    1. Me too. It's been a very emotional couple of weeks over here.

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  6. Can I give you a recommendation? Consider bilateral mastectomy. Two new boobies. Matching ones. Mine are gorgeous.
    My 87 year old neighbor had a mastectomy back in the late 70s or early 80s. She had reconstruction done,but said she was sorry, because as she aged, one of them pointed straight ahead and one of them pointed down :) A spunky lady, my neighbor.
    And this post is an excellent guide. There's so much they don't tell you when you are diagnosed with cancer. What's routine to the doctors is not routine to the patient.

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  7. I don't know what to say. Except that IMO 'god' and 'patience' don't have anything to do with cancer - it just sucks badly. But only you could turn this horrendous experience into a cool blog post - I am FULL of admiration for you, my friend, and I am sending you love and light from downunder (for what it's worth). And {{{{hugs}}}}

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  8. Oh my friend, I was sobbing while reading this. I am having all the feels for you and not doing a good job of reaching out to you every single time I think of (or maybe we'd just talk all day long. I'm up for it!)

    But goddamn cancer, I hate you. I hate you cancer, for all of this.

    Thank you for writing this and let us all know where you are. I am going to second Dyanne ...new BOOBIES. Matching, awesome, 20 yr old looking boobies. It's the least this shitty cancer can give you.

    I love you. (still sobbing)

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