Friday, March 3, 2017

Just call me NED!

My routine 3 month my checkup with the oncologist was scheduled for today. I don't know why, but I dreaded the appointment and asked my husband to go with me. I hate going to see doctors and always feel better when I don't have to go alone. I didn't sleep a wink the night before and I'm sure it was due to worrying about this appointment. I was thankful my husband was driving. I don't think I could have focused on the road if I'd had to. It was quiet in the car as we drove. The scenic countryside was calming to look at as we continued on for over an hour. Finally we arrived at the medical building and found a parking space. I took a deep breath before we got out of the car and felt reassurance as my husband squeezed my hand and said, "It's going to be okay." 

I didn't have to wait long before I was being called back. After being weighed, I was sent to the lab for bloodwork. The phlebotomist had trouble finding the vein in my hand and after a couple of sticks, finally managed to get blood to flow. Her struggle caused the doctor to take someone in front of me. I hated that because it meant I'd have to wait even longer, but there was nothing I could do. His assistant came in to take my vital signs. As she placed the blood pressure cuff high on my left arm and began to pump it up, I told her it was too tight and they weren't really supposed to take my blood pressure up there anyway. She questioned me and I explained I have lymphedema in both arms. You should have seen the look of surprise on her face. She knew she had made a big mistake. She apologized several times and moved the cuff down toward my wrist. When she was done, we sat and waited. We could hear the doctor in the next room as he talked to a patient. 

Finally, there was a small tap at the door and Dr. F came in. He didn't greet either of us which was surprising. He just started talking and I interrupted him and asked if he remembered my husband. When I did that, he stopped to shake his hand but never offered any form of greeting. How rude, I thought to myself...These doctors are so busy they can't even stop to exchange a few pleasantries before beginning. 

I was asked if I was having any trouble breathing or if I had any pain. I explained I had been having some trouble breathing upon exertion but I thought that was due to the damage my right lung had incurred during my radiation treatments. He said he wanted me to do a walking pulse oximeter test and called the nurse to come in. As she entered, he exited. I guess to go see another patient or two...

The nurse hooked a pulse oximeter to the middle finger on my left hand and told me we were going to walk up and down the hallway a few times. I was familiar with this process because of having to watch my father do the same thing when he had lung cancer. As I started walking with the nurse, I felt like I was standing in the hallway back at Emory hospital watching my father. I could see him in his plaid shirt holding tightly to his walker. His frail frame slowly gliding down the hall beside a dark skinned nurse. The first time down the hall was challenging for him, the second time even more difficult. By the time he'd made the third pass, he was out of breath and struggling. The nurse stopped the test and ushered us into an exam room. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and explained my dad's lung capacity was greatly diminished and needed to be put on oxygen. I listened as my father tried to argue but he knew the doctor was telling the truth and I think he felt better as the canula was placed over his head and the tips of the tube inserted into his nose. Life giving oxygen flowed through his system and we gathered our things and went home. (My father died from lung cancer in 2011) As I finished my last lap, I glanced down at the pulse ox machine. My oxygen level had only dropped to 84. When we began it was at a saturation rate of 98...not bad! 

The doctor came back in and asked about my prescriptions. He ordered an increase in one of my meds and had his nurse give me refills. I was happy when he said I didn't have to come back to see him until September...I'd graduated from having to see him every 3 months to every 6 months. Before we left, I whispered in my husband's ear and asked if he'd ask the doctor a question for me. I watched as my big, burly husband looked up at the doctor and said, "So, Doc, is she cancer free?" The doctor looked at me first and then at my husband. He said, "As far as we can tell, without doing any medical tests, she has no evidence of disease." No evidence of disease! I was so happy to hear that!!! I'd been waiting 968 days (that's almost 3 years) to hear that I could finally be considered NED! The doctor left my exam room to go visit another patient and I left the room beaming.

I'm so happy to call myself NED.... NED means no evidence of disease which is the best thing I could hear right now because it means as far as my oncologist can tell, there's no active cancer in my body! It feels good to know the natural therapy I've been doing at home is working. All those vitamins, supplements and essential oils are doing good things in my body. Instead of me having to put horrible poisons inside myself to kill cancer and do damage to my heart or lungs, I had chosen the best way. The most gentle way and it was working.  

As we headed home, joy filled our car. I felt I was exuding happiness. I couldn't help it, there was no way I could contain it. NED. NED! I am NED!

I don't understand why the doctors don't want to ever tell you you're cancer free, I guess it's a legal thing...but I did get him to commit to saying I'm NED. And I'm so thankful. So very thankful. God is good. 

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