Saturday, November 16, 2013

Return Trip

     I visit my gynecological oncologist at least every 3 months. I usually am called back to be weighed, led to my room, have my blood pressure checked and told to "sit tight" while I wait. Where I get to wait tells me a little bit about what to expect. Waiting fully clothed for the Physician's Assistant (PA) in an exam room tells me that I can expect more of the same; like a typical chemo check appointment. Waiting half naked for the PA tells me that my blood work is good, but I still need an exam. Waiting half naked for the Good Doctor tells me that something is up; like an undesirable test result. Waiting fully clothed in the conference room for the Good Doctor is the worst;  like a planning appointment for surgery or more chemo. 

   Two weeks ago, I am waiting, bottom half  naked under a paper sheet, for the PA. This is what I expected. She enters the room and we exchange pleasantries. How's my breathing? Any pain? Anywhere? Bowel movements? Bladder working?  She's trying to suss out tumor growth by addressing the common symptoms. This is what I expected. She listens to my heart and lungs, palpates my lymph glands and belly, gives a full gynecologic and rectal exam. This I what I expected. She seems extra diligent today though, asking me if my bladder is full. It's not, I just emptied minutes ago. She keeps pushing and prodding. She says she feels "fullness". Shit. This is not expected today. She tells me my CA-125 has doubled and asks me to stay longer so the Good Doctor can see me. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. 

   I know the usual course of my disease. I know that my first recurrence was marked by a CA-125 level that continued to steadily climb, without any presence of symptoms, until there were symptoms. Even though I remember the Good Doctor telling me that he probably cannot cure my cancer, I was not expecting this to happen again so soon after finishing chemo only 3 months ago. Shit. This is what I kept saying as I paced the room, waiting. I don't really remember anymore details of the appointment except that I felt very flushed as I strained to listen through the sound of the blood rushing in my head. I kept thinking so soon? and kept repeating Shit. I did think enough to take a self photo with the camera on my phone to see what I looked like at this moment. In the photo, I recognize that person that looks back at me in the mirror from my times of chemo, the dull stare and seeming emptiness. That look belies what is happening below the surface.

  Inside, I am thinking all the horrible thoughts. I am seeing the long, slow, painful decline to death. I am hoping for that proverbial truck to take me out quickly. I am thinking that I cannot do chemo again. I am wondering where my line is, when do I stop fighting this unstoppable disease and allow death to come. How much can I take? How much do I want to take? Those are different things. Who will take my cat? Why do I have to do this again? Why can't I be one of the lucky ones? 

  I brooded over this development for a few weeks. 

  I don't remember those weeks really, they are dark and lost. I don't care to go rooting around to discover any nuggets of hope or positive thinking. I offer no directions or guidance on how to conquer such things. I wallowed, until I was done. I was done last Tuesday. I was driving down the hill from the public library and a song on the radio, a metal song from the 80's,  prompted me to turn up the volume. I started singing along and POOF.....the sun was brighter, the wind was warm in my face, and a smile came over my face. I knew that it had lifted, that dark period was over. I surfaced with a pop, back into life.