Thursday, July 05, 2007
CANCER JOURNAL - PRACTICING PATIENCE
After the encouraging report from my oncologist that the cancer was "resolved", she made appointments for me with a radiation oncologist and my surgeon.
Unlike my oncologist, the radiation oncologist was skeptical of the CT scan results and thought the stuff in my back might not be the result of chemo as the report and my uncologist both believed. The radiation oncologist needed further evidence before she would make a recommendation for treatment. She wanted another bone scan. Scan number seven was done last Friday.
I saw the surgeon Tuesday. When she learned that another scan had been done and the results were not yet available, she refused to offer any opinion. So the hour spent in her office waiting for that visit was wasted, and I still don't know what's next.
I have another appointment with the radiation oncologist next Tuesday. In the meantime I've been thinking about the implications. If the cancer has not metasticized, I can consider going for a cure, which will mean, as near as I can determine, a double mastectomy followed by radiation. Or, if there is cancer in my spine, the only option left is chemo.
It was inevitable, I suppose, that I would wake up with a backache yesterday morning. It was a very familiar backache--the kind I get when I've been out in the yard digging in the flower beds. The kind that goes with using muscles that haven't been used for a while. The kind that yesterday morning was surely an indication that I have cancer in my spine. The imagination is not always friendly or welcome, and my ability to shut it down is waning with all the delays.
I've been contemplating the future once they get through with me. The chemo eliminates my hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes. The estrogen suppressants banish any desire for a post-menopausal sex life. The attempt at a cure will take care of what was recently described by a radio talking head as "lady lumps." When they get through with me I will have more in common with a cross-dresser than with another woman. When I have to put on my hair and those other anatomical features each morning the way I would put on a Halloween costume, it will be hard not to feel neutered. And that's the good news. The way I see it right now, I have a choice of dying with my hair on or my boobs on, and it's also possible I will die without either, since this cure, if it comes at all, comes without a guarantee.
I watched the fireworks last night wondering if I were seeing them for the last time. Some days it's not good to contemplate tomorrow.
Moments after I hit the publish button my radiation oncologist called to say that the results of the bone scan agreed with the CT scan, which means that there is a good chance that the cancer has metasticized. But, of course, she doesn't have a clear plan for treatment, and she will be talking with the other two doctors. The surgeon, however, is going out of town for a few days, which means that I probably won't have an answer for quite a while yet.
In any case, the radiation oncologist would like to have a bone biopsy. That sounds really pleasant!