Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Happy to still be cancer free!

Yesterday, I had my six month check up at the cancer treatment center. It's always a harrowing day for me. Just knowing I have to go there makes me a nervous wreck. I guess because I have such a fear of recurrence, it debilitates me.

As I readied for my appointment, I began to get very nervous. I was so nervous, I was trembling. Normally, I'm not an anxious person but since I've had cancer, things have changed.

At my last visit, the doctor and I talked about this. He explained this is very normal and is a form of post cancer PTSD. The trauma of the cancer experience affects a person much in the same way a person who's been to war feels. Loud noises,crowds, and anything out of the normal routine cause feelings of anxiety. That's one reason he prescribed an anti-anxiety medication for me. I only take it when I absolutely need it and I felt I needed it before the visit to the cancer treatment center, so I took one.

After taking the medication, I drove myself to the treatment center. It's a huge center serving all of Southeast Georgia and people come from all over the world to receive care there. Just finding a parking space is a huge challenge because of the volume of patients they see each day, but after driving up and down the rows for several minutes, I managed to find one fairly close to the door.

My bracelet
Taking a deep breath, I said a quick prayer and headed inside. As I entered the facility, I passed a bald woman sitting in a wheelchair. I gave her a big smile and thanked God I wasn't in her shoes. Although I don't understand it, God, in His mercy and grace, has allowed me to do well to date.

Each time a person visits the cancer treatment center, they must stop at the registration desk and receive a badge. No one is admitted without one. After I checked in, I proceeded to the port lab. Although I don't have a port and hopefully never will need one, that's where they do all the blood work.

After the blood draw

I sat in their waiting room for about ten minutes and read before being called back. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the men and women waiting for their turns. One very frail black woman was sharing with another woman about her recent tests. I didn't want to eavesdrop but it was hard to avoid hearing their conversation since they were right in front of me. I noticed the woman wasn't doing well. She had a disposable bag in her hand just in case she felt ill. I was thankful I wasn't going through a period of nausea and vomiting.

Soon my name was called. I followed the lab tech into the drawing room and had a seat. She noticed my compression sleeves and asked where she could draw blood. I explained she could only use my left hand and must use a butterfly needle to draw. She asked me to wait and in a few minutes, she returned with another tech. She needed someone to change out the vials for her as she used the butterfly. I thought it funny that they needed to tag team merely to take a few vials of blood.

After the blood work had been done, I walked to a quiet area in the center to read. It was an hour before my next appointment and it wouldn't be worthwhile to go home and come back again.

The area I was in wasn't quiet for long. Every few minutes, someone was going down the hall. So many people were in wheelchairs and needed assistance getting to their next appointment. Once again, I gave thanks for my well being.

Time passed quickly as I read and soon the alarm on my phone was telling me I needed to head to the clinic to see the doctor.

Arriving at the clinic, I met with the nurse's assistant and had my vitals recorded - weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Next, I was taken to a room and went into waiting mode again. After about twenty minutes, the doctor came in. I was unfamiliar with the doctor but apparently she was one of my doctor's partners. She was polite and listened well. She went over my test results and said everything looked fine other than my Vitamin D level was a bit low. I was happy to hear I didn't need to return for another 6 months.

Before my next appointment, with the nutritionist, I took the elevator up to the second floor. I wanted to stop by and spend some time in the chapel.

The prayer wall
The chapel is a beautiful, peaceful place and I always enjoy going in there. It's so quiet and is a good place to spend time in prayer. I was surprised to find a new brick wall in the room and it was covered in slips of paper. Tiny prayer requests had been shoved into the cracks of the wall between the stones. I thought it ironic since I'll be going to Israel in 2 months and one of the highlights of my trip will be going to the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall is a sacred place and people from all around the world visit each year. One their visits, they leave special prayer or praises recorded on tiny slips of paper. When the wall gets too full of paper, the slips are removed and buried on the Mount of Olives.

After my time of prayer, my next stop was to visit the Cancer Thriver's corner. I always try to stop in and see what activities are scheduled for the month. Usually they offer classes such as drumming, cooking, or various art activities all free for cancer survivors. This time they didn't have anything scheduled that I was interested in so I went down the hall to the free library. I'm always looking for a good book to read and thought on my next visit I'd bring a big stack of donations from my personal library.
A reminder to keep fighting

The meeting with the nutritionist didn't take very long. She just asked how I was doing and wondered if I was having any issues with my diet. Since I wasn't, she just recommended some supplements she thought might benefit me and I was done.

It was such a joy to leave the cancer treatment center! I hate going there and feeling death. It hovers there, it seems, like a huge vulture waiting to swoop in and take its next victim.

On my way home, I couldn't help but think how very blessed I am. Stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes was my initial diagnosis. Normally, that would have required chemotherapy and radiation along with surgery and hormone therapy. But my faith in God allowed me to choose not to take chemotherapy and not to use the follow up hormone therapy (although I did try it for a few months and got extremely sick from it.)

I continue to follow my natural health regimen which includes lots of green tea, ashwaghanda, turmeric, and a host of other supplements. So far, so good so I must be doing something right.

It amazes me how many people think they have to do exactly what the doctor recommends without doing any research on their own. Since it's my body, I always do a lot of research before I take any recommended medication or treatment. I feel that's my responsibility but I understand many others don't feel the same way. In any event, I'm just thankful. I'm thankful things have gone so well and continue to do so. I never want a recurrence of cancer and hopefully, I won't ever have one.

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