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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Curled (metaphorically) in a fetal position, thanks to Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

I have entered into another period of 'scan dancing' - that special time in a cancer patient's/survivor's/fighter's life when you get the concerned look on the doctor's face during a checkup, and they refer you to a scan to check things out further. After the dances I was put through in 2006 when they were trying to determine what had invaded my left cheek (mumps? lymphoma?), then again in 2007 when I was trying my best to grow a unicorn horn out of my radiated skull over my left ear, you would think that I would be used to the rhythm and be able to glide along, tra-la-la. During the day, I think I manage the steps well - I am productive, and am keeping up with duties at work. I drive vehicles, navigate traffic, purchase items, laugh at tv humor, and can attempt higher math problems. But outside of those 8 hours where my time is the boss' and my customers', I am a wreck. I haven't been able to be productive on projects at home and on my own computer. I can't even do well emailing friends at the moment. I have scheduled my crying times to coincide with showers or when family members are out of the house - since the parotid removal and radiation, I don't do crying well (huh - like I ever did before cancer). I try so hard "not to go there", to consider cancer as the reason when there are aches/pains/new lumps in various parts of my already lumpy body. Hey, I know that I could drop from a heart attack or be hit by a bus instead of dying due to Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. I have been told I am lucky (by health care providers), that this is a slow cancer. (Yippee. Would have liked the lottery instead, guys.) I have become an expert patient on this disease, learning that just because you have a couple of tumors in the lungs or liver or bone, it isn't the end of the world - you can live for a decade or more with lumpy ACC lungs, according to research. So I should be able to handle an extra scan or two added to the regular scheduled ones, right? But sometimes it really gets to me, usually in the middle of the night, like now. Waiting for that other shoe to drop (because it usually does with this cancer), and having that diagnoses of metastases given to me, proving that the original treatment to prevent more cancer has failed. I knew when I went through the 6 weeks of radiation treatment that it may not keep cancer away, but it is the hope that it did that has kept me going to work daily, making plans for the future, taking on projects. I have learned to juggle life again with the added ball of 'past' cancer. I don't want to contemplate adding another ball of current cancer to the juggling collection, yet that is what I have to do on some level each time they shove me into an MRI tube or do a CT or chest xray or ultrasound. I just glance over to the guy tossing me the balls to juggle, and every once in a while he reaches over towards the shelf that has the Current Cancer ball, making me think he is going to toss it into the air for me. So far, he hasn't, but the anticipation is always there. The only way I have been able to do all of this to this point has been viewing myself as a breathing mulitmedia educational tool for students, residents, and faculty - there has to be some point to my going through all of this repeatedly, other than someone in the hospital winning the office pool by guessing correctly when the Cheeky Librarian grows her first met (I want to put money in that pool, guys - Lucky the dog needs a new bone!).
I see my family doc tomorrow to get some skinny on a questionable abdominal ultrasound result - I should know more in a few days about what the next steps will be, if there are any. Don't count that office pool finished yet - I still have some cheeky left, and I have a feeling that that is the best way to fight my personal cancer.


Jeanne said...

Teri--dear, dear Teri. I know this state of mind so well, having been there a few times myself.

But you express it so well, I find myself wanting to quote your words back at you. This post is a classic "brain dump"--just get it all out there, and then you can look at it later, and tweak it, and pick out the important bits.

I so wish I could fix this for you, but I know that I can't. However, I am here for you so that you are not alone as you face whatever news is waiting out there. Whatever you need, dear friend, it's yours.


Dee said...

Hi Teri,
I'll be sending out good vibes and energy your way. I sure hope that they don't find anything, but if they do, there's a whole bunch of people (like me) who will help you get through it. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

You have that cheeky attitude, all right, and that will certainly serve you well as you wait and find out what will happen next.

You're a loving, giving soul - a real sweetheart and that will help, too.

Thinking about you . . . please let us/me know what happens.

And, yes, go ahead and cry your eyes out. Curl up into a ball. Rest. Take care of yourself. Don't feel like you have to do it all. Home projects and all can wait. I spent the few months of late spring/early summer metaphorically curled up in a ball, and then late summer recovering from radiation and the ruptured tissue expander. I'm coming out of it now and although I felt bad about not having energy or the desire to do stuff at home, I think the fact that I did step back and rest and take care of myself is really serving me well now. Those who love you will understand if you have to do the same thing.

Sending cheeky good thoughts,

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Dear Teri,

My cancer is currently in remission, but having been through 7 recurrences since the first in 1992, I can related to the mind games and the day-night dichotomy of coping.

Everyone finds what works best for him or her at the moment. Some of my favorite mantras (all depend on knowing I am taking the right steps as prescribed by my physicians for evaluation and treatment):

I don't have a problem until I have a problem.

It is what it is, and I'll deal with what it is.

Worrying now won't help me later, but it will wear me out before I get started if the checkup does not turn out okay.

Worrying now won't help me later, but it will steal perfectly good time if the checkup turns out okay.

Some people exercise more, or do pilates or take physician-prescribed pills.

It's no fun feeling anxious. I hope sharing and finding mantras that work for you lessen the distress while you wait for news.

Hang in there. With hope, Wendy

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