Friday, September 7, 2012

Survivorship


I just returned home from a trip to Houston for scans.  I had some swelling in my leg that Dr. Westin wanted to evaluate through scans and rule out recurrence.  Apparently cervical cancer can recur in the pelvis which would be indicated with swelling in the legs.  Just as Dr. Westin thought, the swelling is normal lymphedema which can be alleviated through physical therapy and massage.   For some reason my trip this time was a little different.  As I navigate the "survivorship" aspect of cancer there are new experiences every day.  I was fairly confident that the swelling was lymphedema before going but I was thankful to get confirmation.  I wasn't terribly worried, but it was weighing on my mind.  While Barbara and I were waiting for the Dr to come in, we talked about what I would do if the cancer was back.   My first response to the question was that I would find a corner and curl up for a while but that thought lasted only a few seconds.  I told Barbara that we would go to one of our favorite places, have a few drinks, get a good night's sleep and head back to MD Anderson in the morning to figure out how we would fight it.     I know that if my cancer does come back, MD Anderson will have some sort of treatment or clinical trial in their arsenal that I will use to battle what is thrown my way.  

The past two times I have been at MDA I have felt that there are so many sick people there.  Of course, it's a Cancer Center.  What I mean is that people seem noticeably sick to me.  I don't know if that is because I am more aware of where I am than I was when I was there for treatment or if I just feel different because my cancer is gone and therefore feel like I don't belong.  I met a nice woman while we were both drinking barium and getting iv's prior to our scans.  She is currently battling Stage 4 ovarian cancer and has been for the past 4 years.   She is a Dr of Psychology.  An intelligent, cheery woman who's path I was happy to have crossed.   When we were chatting she asked me if it bothers me that people say "you look great".  That was so funny to me because it really is something that I have thought about and dealt with throughout cancer.  People often say it and said "you don't look sick" throughout my fight.    It doesn't bother me.  I responded that I have on occasion thought that I should complain more or be more dramatic but when I think about behaving like that, it's just not me so I won't.  My new friend also looked great.  You wouldn't know that she is fighting a fight that is more difficult than 8 rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson.  And to think that this 100 pound woman is giving cancer a strong left hook.  She told me that she shouldn't be here.  How's that for strong? 

Before going to have my scan on Wednesday I prayed in the morning.  I prayed for strength.  The test isn't easy or enjoyable.  I have shared the logistics in past blogs so will refrain here.  I will say that I never enjoy it or look forward to it.  I just take a deep breath, hold my head up and plow through.  I also prayed that if someone was there who needed to giggle or find some thing to smile about to make their day easier, that God would help them.  Laughter has helped me through this process.

As Barbara and I always do, we have fun while we are in Houston.  As many of you know, Barbara takes pictures frequently on the trip.  This time we were riding the escalator to meet Debbie, my research nurse and now friend for lunch.  Barb was taking a picture of the Tree Of Life in the lobby.  She didn't get a picture in time and was trying to hurry.  I told her that we could just ride the escalator up and down again so that she could get the picture.  We laughed, and then rode the escalator about 4 times just for fun.  On the 4th time up we saw CNN setting up cameras and Barbara spotted Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  We walked over, ok, maybe lunged at him, and asked him if we could get our picture with him.  Truthfully, Barb said to him "would it be cheesy if we asked you to take a picture with us?" That was exciting and made us smile.  If we didn't stop to be silly and ride the escalator a few times we wouldn't have seen Dr. Gupta.  Don't rush through life.  Every day is truly a gift.   
 

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