Thursday, February 15, 2007

in my bones or 'there is no stage V'

The thing about living with Stage IV breast cancer is that every change in how my body functions can feel suspicious. After all, feeling a stitch in my side led to a diagnosis of metastasis. So when, I experienced bloating and (relatively mild) abdominal pain this week I began to feel a bit concerned.

Actually that is a gross understatement. In fact, before yesterday's appointment with my oncologist, I was completely beside myself with pure terror.

You see, I've been feeling good. Really good. And what happened the last couple of times I felt this good? I found a lump in my breast. I found out that the cancer had spread to my liver. I became certain that I was going to be told that my prognosis had just dramatically worse.

But my oncologist was, in his way, very reassuring. He told me that he was pretty certain that what I have been experiencing is 'nothing' (and he confirmed this when he examined me). He doesn't think that my liver is any more swollen than it was a couple of weeks ago. He did, however order another ultrasound, just in case.

As for my fear of spreading, well, he said that I shouldn't worry because it is a certainty that the cancer has spread to other parts of my body. As he put it, cancer cells are not selective about where they go, so I shouldn't worry about it spreading to my other organs and my bones because, well, it's already there.

He said, I should think of my cancer as a chronic illness that we will work at managing with various therapies and that when one stops working, we will try something else. He also said he was much less worried about me than he was in November, "it's a cause for concern when a patient turns yellow."

As I write this, I am pink from the cold and feeling more relaxed than I have in days. Once again, I am reminded of how much fighting this illness is about staying strong emotionally, as well as physically.

Does any of this make sense?

7 comments:

kalen said...

yes, it makes sense.

try to find analogies when you're starting to doubt yourself again.

for example, once you have freckles - you'll always have freckles, but you can *control* how bad/dark the freckles are & how much they affect your appearance by sun / uv light exposure, moisturizing, wearing/not-wearing makeup, etc.

and when you need a tickle - think of cancer as one HELL of a freckle.

my love to you, as always. i'm constantly admiring you. you're inspiring & encouraging & memorable.

i've always wanted to be memorable. that's one of my life's goals. and i just want you to know that you are remembered now & you will be remembered *then* - you're an amazing person from what i have read.

have a good weekend & let yourself relax - you deserve it more than anyone i know.

laurie said...

Thank you, Kalen. I am very, very touched by this comment.

amanda said...

It all makes sense. No one thinks about the psychological toll that all of this takes on you.

Every time I feel a odd pain, or notice that something has changed...my mind immediately jumps to the worst possibility. Because for years, I was trained to look for the worst possibility while caring for Eric.

Hypochondria is definitely a side effect of having cancer. It sucks.

You're in my thoughts, dear.

Maria said...

It does make a lot of sense - but I doubt it makes it any easier - it's a whole new way of life... When my second son was born w/a terrible heart defect and had to go through open heart surgeries 3x by the time he was 2 (he's 5 and a holy terror!) people constantly said - I don't know how you deal with it. My response was - at least internally - I don't have a choice - I just do. When I read your blog or think about my sister-in-law I have the exact same thoughts - I don't know how you deal with it... I know the answer - you have to - but wow --- what a deck of cards to deal with...

pocketina said...

I think you're developing an admirable outlook about it all & I applaud you. So you're scared and you doubt your body's inviolability. You bring that to your writing, and are honest with us, your readers. You share those feelings with us, and I appreciate how open you are. You help me deal with my own feelings, daily. You're a wonderful teacher. I see you living forever. :-)

Chris said...

Just lurking. Wanted to say that you'll be in my prayers. I do believe in miracles...Hang in there!

Kim said...

I think you make perfect sense. I'm willing to bet that at times the emotional/mental battle is the hardest fight of all, but you are SO winning in that!

Praying for always,
Kim