I remember, when I went into the doctor in January, the one I liked Dr. F, the surgeon who made me comfortable, and made me feel like a human being again. I remember her words, as she said “it looks like cancer to me” so matter of factly, I can hear her voice echoing in my head. I remember being angry, after seeing Dr J & Dr G to get confirmation that they – the “experts” didn’t believe it could possible be a return of the cancer. They provided me with reassurance, and I fell for it. I remember the relief of going to physical therapy – something I’ve done several times before in my life, and found value in. Something that had brought me comfort and relief in previous situations.
Going to the physical therapy, and feeling my condition, my overall health continue to diminish. Feeling like things were just not going the correct direction. Feeling like the changes I was making, struggling to move towards health were two steps backwards one step forward. Perpetually feeling like I was getting further and further away from the goal.
Feeling the pain begin to rise in my chest, feeling the aching and soreness become more and more frequent. Feeling it become more constant, feeling my meditation become less and less effective and diminishing the pain. Feeling my Reiki applications provide less and less comfort.
I remember the conversations with Dr M, her asking me “aren’t you afraid of the cancer coming back?” me answering her so matter-of-factly without any pause for thought “No, not at all……” and not realizing the impendingness of those dots.
I recall the feeling of anxiety at scheduling a follow up with Dr G after the pain had become constant, and none of my non medicinal efforts were having lasting enough effect for me to continue to get adequate sleep. Having to stay up, until pure exhaustion, and finally deciding enough was enough, and going in to tell her that if this was normal for the diagnosis she provided, that it was time to discuss pain medication. Having her ask about doing a biopsy.
Waking from a nap the next day, after the biopsy, having missed a call with no voicemail from the doctor, and calling P to ask him, and him telling me that he was on the way home. Him telling me that we were going in to see Dr J, and that the biopsy confirmed that the cancer had returned.
Having Dr J explain to me that I had metastatic breast cancer, in a breast that wasn’t a breast at all, but a lump of reconstructed tissue where my breast had previously been, where the tumor of my former cancer had previously been. Having her order a Pet Scan, which further confirmed the worst, that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and to several of my bones. Having her effectively express to me that I now had an expiration date.
Thinking of myself as a small pint of cream in the fridge. I had an expiration date. I would no longer be here in short order.
I recall thinking to myself how very odd this feeling was, of both relief, to finally have confirmed that there was something truly wrong with me, instead of being given lip service to the idea that I was doing okay and getting better. The relief of the fact that knowing you are dying just means you know that you have less time to spend doing things you don’t enjoy doing, and can focus more on the things that matter.
In the words of a favorite character of mine from World of Warcraft, Chen Stormstout, “Family. Friends. Food. These are what matter most.”