Friday, May 13, 2022

One thing leads to another

They say hindsight is 20/20 and I've found that to be true for the most part. When I look back on various things in my life, I can see so much more clearly, especially when those things are health related. 

In December 2021, I was extremely sick with some weird illness that caused me to be unable to swallow. I went to the emergency room twice, to urgent care twice, and to my general physician 3 times. During that time, I had all sorts of tests run - bloodwork, laryngoscopies, MRIs, and CT scans. At first they thought I had a salivary stone. Next, they thought Sjogren's Syndrome, after a positive ANA test, they thought it was a rheumatological disorder but nothing definite was ever determined. After 2 rounds of steroids and 2 of antibiotics, I got a little better, but then, I got Tracheitis. Unsure whether or not my CPAP machine may have contributed to that issue, I was told to stay off of it for 3 weeks. 

The CT scan on my head and neck revealed an area of concern on the upper right lobe of my lung. How it picked up that area, I have no clue, but it did. Immediately, I freaked out thinking the cancer had returned. Calling my oncologist, I shared the news. He scheduled a CT scan of my lungs with and without contrast. That was earlier last week. On Friday, I got the call from his office. They said the area on my lung was damaged tissue from radiation therapy. Whew! I was glad to hear that, but I wasn't expecting what came next. The test also picked up an area of concern on the T6 vertebrae of my spine. Great. Just what I needed. Another area to freak out about! And now, they want me to have a nuclear medicine full body bone scan. They didn't tell me why they wanted me to have the test, but I know. They're looking to see if the cancer has metastasized. 

When they lopped off my boobs, they did find cancer in my sentinel lymph node, too. That meant the cancer was traveling. Thankfully, after removing a total of 6 nodes in my right arm and 2 in the left, They didn't find any more cancer. So, I assumed everything was all good. 

In July of this year, I'll celebrate 8 years of being cancer free...I hope. 

I have to look back at the circumstances of the way everything happened with gratitude. If I don't, I can't accept that God allowed each thing to lead to another thing to hopefully take care of a potential problem before it gets out of control. 

I don't want to go through cancer again...EVER! But if I have to, I'd rather know very early on so the doctors can help me figure out how to battle it. 

I don't know what I'll do if they say it is a recurrence. I don't know how I'll choose to fight it. The first round, I refused chemo but did do radiation therapy and anti-hormone therapy for a few months. If I'm told the cancer has returned, what will I do? I've already started to think about it. 

My friends and family tell me not to borrow trouble, and I'm not trying to, I'm just a practical person. I like to have a plan. I like to think ahead. 

I never really thought long and hard during my first round of cancer. I just did what I had to do. I knew I wanted the cancer out of my body as fast as possible so I went radical and said, "Cut them off!" If I get news it's in my spine, I'll probably lean toward doing chemotherapy this time. I know it will make me extremely sick, but if it means I'll have a better chance of living longer, I'll do it. 

My Aunt died of bone cancer. I watched her during the last few weeks of her life. She was in excruciating pain. The morphine didn't help lessen her pain or control it. Her agony is not something I think I could endure. 

I wish I didn't know so much about the spine. Working for a two chiropractors I learned a lot. And now it all makes sense. I've been having a lot of back pain in that area for some time. I thought I was just dealing with a herniated disk. I guess time will tell. 

The funny thing is, even before I find out the results from the complete body bone scan, I have a sneaking feeling I'm going to get bad news. I'm not trying to be morbid, it's just a gut feeling I have. 

Back in 1976, I read a book by Betty Rollin called, First You Cry. It's about how she felt when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Little did I know that 38 years after I read her book, I'd face the same plight. 

Last week, while visiting a thrift store, the spine of a book caught my eye and it nearly jumped off the shelf at me. It was Betty's book. For some reason, I purchased it and brought it home to re-read. It's been 46 years since I've read her story and I felt the need to read it again. 

Maybe it's just a coincidence or maybe mere curiosity, but as I've been reading the book again this week, it's felt comforting to know her feelings are so similar to mine. I'd forgotten about her sick sense of humor that cracks me up. For instance, at a dinner party, she's talking with a speech writer and all of a sudden he asks her what she does for a living. Betty pipes up and says, without missing a beat, "I had a breast cut off recently and I'm trying to get over it." Naturally, the man sitting with her is caught off guard by her candor and nearly drops his fork. I had to laugh out loud when I read it. Only those who've been there would get it, and I did. Sometimes, we say things for the pure shock value because it's the most suitable thing we can think of at the time. 

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. The scan is on May 31st. I'll go into the hospital at 9:00 a.m. to be injected with a radioactive tracer then I'll return to the hospital 3 hours later for an hour long scan. I don't know how long it will be before I receive the results, but I'm praying now that whatever is on T6 will be miraculously gone. If not, I'll try to receive the news with grace and trust that God has everything under control. He's the only one who knows what my future holds. 

Oh, sure, I'd love to have a crystal ball and be able to see what happens in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I'd love to know how long I'm going to live and how I'm going to die, but God doesn't give me that ability. If He did, there would be no reason for me to have faith, would there? 

It's hard. I won't lie. It's so hard to think about possibly going through cancer again. I know I'll beat myself up with the what ifs - did I do the right thing in my choice for the first fight? Did I do something to feed the cancer and cause it to grow again? Was there something I ignored? The questions are endless. 

All I can do is wait and I suck at that. In the meantime, I'm going to spend some time at the beach trying to think about nothing other than watching the rolling of the ocean waves, seeing the splendor of the sunrises and sunsets, feeling the sand beneath my feet, and allowing my mind to be soothed by the sights and sounds of nature. 

Please keep me in your prayers. I'll keep you posted in the days ahead. No matter what, I know that God is good and He has a good plan for my life. 

I’m trying really hard not to cry…

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