I Used to Like May
I didn't even mind the mammogram. The new Genius 3D machine was sleek and new and Cheryl made the whole thing painless. I remember her from 2 years ago, when I was a nervous mess, with concerns about a suspicious lump.
The very next day, I went to see J., my nurse practitioner. I've had her doing my Well Woman exams for over 15 years. She is the very best and I feel comfortable gabbing about anything with her. She knew I'd done my imaging duties, but I felt an extra lift knowing that she was also doing a breast exam. She felt my cyst and didn't seem concerned. Yay! In two days I got those 2, dreaded annual tasks crossed off my list.
Two Hours Later
I got home from my exam and did a little jig before lunch. "Oh boy! Done for a year!" Then two hours later I got a call from the radiologist. Dr. G. said he saw some changes in my mammogram and ultrasound images. He recommended a biopsy. My heart sunk. Two years ago, Dr. G recommended a biopsy after viewing my results and it turned out to be cancer. I really hadn't prepared myself for the possibility. I don't go around fearing cancer.
So, I had celebrated too soon. I had assumed all was well, when I did my happy dance. Being told I needed a biopsy felt different this time. The weight of those words made my body slump, but I didn't have the same fear of the unknown. I went ahead and made my biopsy appointment for June 1 and I sulked. "I hate May." My high mood, suddenly went flat. I so do not want to do this all over again! But I'm a different person than 2 years ago. I felt more angry and irritated than weepy. Then I felt feisty. "If it's back, then I know how to do this. And if I have do all of it again, with chemo, then I'm getting a Pixie Cut, early on. Why mess with these chemo curls. I'll show them!
So we'll see. Biopsy tomorrow, then the waiting on results period. I'll wait to click "post" until I'm ready. This is not something I'm sharing with the world just yet.
Two years ago my cancer worries started. I did all my treatments, fretted about my hair re-growth and then I was finished. I was done thinking about myself. Then recently, it seems like all my worries turned towards friends.
I remember a couple years ago when my friend, "A" suddenly faced cancer. I couldn't imagine. Then suddenly I was the anxious one, facing the unknowns of breast cancer. A's pep-talks and honesty-chats were a welcome relief. Now A is facing cancer, again. I think of her daily and wish she hadn't moved so far away.
"C" was once a neighbor who shared my taste in movies, humor, politics and more. Since moving 10 years ago, we've never lost touch, thanks to technology. She supported me throughout my bad months and celebrated with me in person, when I had a short crop of hair. Now, C is finishing up her own radiation treatments for breast cancer. I stressed along with her, when she was awaiting results. No chemo for C, but she and I share that same label now. We've had cancer and that never changes.
Recently my neighbor of 20 years, had a scare. "L" has had biopsies before, but this one was different. While she was waiting on her results, I stewed along with her. I thought about how she was there for her own mother, when she lost her battle. I thought about how L was at my door 2 years ago, after I told her of my diagnosis. She offered support, advice and positive distraction over those months. Even fashion advice, when it was time for wig purchasing.
Durning those agonizing days after L's biopsy, I wasn't much help. L was keeping herself distracted by packing her house to move. I fretted that her diagnosis would be positive. How does one face a move, with cancer? How could I help her? She would soon be out of casserole-giving-range!
When I got word that all was clear for L, I felt almost as relieved as if it had been my own news. She was giddy and so was I. But there was a moment when L realized, even before me, that this was an odd celebration to share. I can't remember L's words, but they surprised me. She paused from her exuberance to realize that I hadn't experienced the same joy, when my positive results came in. I was touched that she could look beyond her own relief and acknowledge our different reactions. "That's true." I thought to myself, amazed at how I hadn't even thought of that on my own.
I'm sad that so many are dealing with cancer scares these days. I'm sad that A, C, L and I share things in common like biopsies, radiation and chemo. I liked it better when we just had books in common... back when we were in our book club, drinking wine and gabbing. I'm sad that I've had to watch each of these friends move away, but I'm so incredibly grateful to live in 2018. There are amazing ways to diagnose and treat this horrible cancer thing, if and when we get it. But there are also amazing ways to stay connected like never before. We've come a long way since staying in touch meant, letter writing and expensive long distance phone calls!
Actually I like good excuses. They come in handy. 2 years ago I had the cancer excuse, when I felt like. I don't think I ever really abused that. But it was nice to suddenly have an excuse to stay home and read. Mostly, it was a good excuse to take a look at my life and routines, friends and "work" and to decide what's important. We shouldn't need excuses for that.
I've been growing hair back over a year. It was kind of nice having an excuse for my bad hair days. I also had a great excuse for trying out new hair-dos. I never would have been bold enough to choose a pixie cut. It just suddenly appeared.
Now my curls are straightening. I won't be able to blame all my bad hair days on chemo curls forever. Yes, I'm already sort of missing the curls that drove me nuts. My hair still misbehaves terribly, but I don't spend any time on it, either. I love being able to just let it dry in the air... in whatever way it chooses.
My knees and toes feel a little arthritic, too. I assumed all this recent stiffness was due to old age. I noticed the symptoms a year ago when I turned 60. My oncologist suggested I stop Letrozol, (my hormone blocking med) for a month, since joint pain is a possible side effect. Nothing changed and I was a tiny bit relieved to just go ahead and take the meds for 4 more years. I don't want to be tempted to stop the drug that lowers my chances of cancer recurrence. I guess I'll just act like an old person and finish my morning run, with a wincing, slow-motion stoop to get the newspaper off the sidewalk.
What Has Changed?
Has cancer changed me? Do I need an excuse for extra wrinkles or achy joints?
It's been almost 2 years since Don and I posed with our kids. The photo was taken a couple weeks before diagnosis. Not that much has changed besides my hair... and Scott's.
The few changes have been good ones, like both kids being married. All 6 of are healthy and happy and I know not to take that for granted. I also know to appreciate every moment we're together, whether we're traveling together or just on the phone talking.
No Excuses Needed
After pondering over excuses, I decided my aching joints (which really aren't that bad) were a good excuse for using some of my sweet scented, pampering gifts. I soaked in the tub and I realized... I don't need an excuse for this.
Lounging is Good
Tub soaks and rocking chairs and lounging in general, is plain good for you. Especially, if it leads to some kind of good thought.
While soaking, I thought about the ridiculous noun, excuse. It's a negative word, associated with blame. I've decided to use that word as little as possible. If I just swap it out with the word motivation, it takes away the blaming tone. Nobody is blaming me for having a bad hair day. I need no excuse. My cancer was a motivation for change, not an excuse to change.
Ahhh. I feel much better now. If only I had a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a rocking chair. No one needs an excuse of old age or cancer, to enjoy that scene!
Cancer to Covid
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast cancer and then I was done.
On March 17, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. Only this time, it was affecting more than me.
Coronavirus and Cancer! Both are evil, but neither can totally get me down... if I vent! I hope with Covid, I run out of complaints before 200!