Friday, December 13, 2013
A few nights ago I wasn't feeling well. On top of the lung issues and the aching vajayjay, I had what seemed to be a random attack of vertigo that sent me to the bedroom floor calling for Jimmi to help me up to the bed. One more worry to add to the list before today's scan. But, for me, the worst part about that episode was that the boys were still awake. Of course, Jimmi and I protected them from the truth that I literally couldn't stand up on my own, but I couldn't hide the obvious fact that something was wrong. It was bedtime and I needed to get them moving so they'd be rested for school the next day. "Just tell them to get ready for bed and come in here to say goodnight to me," I told Jimmi. "Say I have a headache and I'm just not feeling well." My husband followed my lead and the boys did, too. Easy enough, right? I mean, they're 13 and almost 11. They're old enough to understand that everyone has moments when they aren't feeling their best. Both boys came in to hug and kiss me before heading to their rooms for the night, but Dylan's hug was a little tighter and lingered a little longer than it usually did. I could tell he was concerned. The kids padded off down the hall and Jimmi followed to make sure they were tucked in and settled then he came back to check on me. The room had stopped spinning enough for me to open my eyes at that point, but I still wasn't comfortable enough to stand up. As I sat in bed I could hear the restlessness from down the hall. Dylan, my worry wart, was tossing and turning and rustling around in his bed. I waited a few minutes to see if he would stop. Two minutes turned to five minutes turned to ten minutes and the kid wasn't settling himself to sleep. "I need to go see Dylan," I said to Jimmi. "You need to stay in bed. He's fine!" Jimmi replied. But I know my kid better than anyone. "He's worried about me and he thinks something is really wrong. I need to show him I'm ok," I insisted as I forced myself out of bed and onto my feet. I stood there for a few seconds to make sure my balance would hold then I slowly walked down the hall to Dylan's room. Quietly, I opened the door, just in case he'd actually fallen asleep. "Mom?" he whispered. "It's me, bud," I responded as a walked over to his bed. "I know you're scared and won't be able to sleep until you know I'm ok. I just wanted to show you I'm fine," I lied. A small smile crept over my teenager's face but his voice came out like a little boy's, "How did you know?" he asked with wide eyes. "I'm your mother," I belted out, "I know everything about you." Dylan's arms flew up from his sides and wrapped tightly around my neck. I steadied myself to make sure I wouldn't fall over. "I was so scared!" he whimpered. I spoke calmly, "Dylan, I'm fine! Everyone gets sick sometimes. You were sick last week for two days and then you got better, right?" He nodded. "I just have a little virus or something. I'll be fine." If only I believed what I was saying. I headed back to my room after calming Dylan and Jimmi was waiting for me. "Is he ok?" He asked. I shrugged, "He's terrified." Jimmi stared at me with confusion in his eyes. "If you watched your mother go through cancer treatments when you were ten years old, I'm sure it would screw with your head, too." I explained. "Whether I have a headache, a cold or something more, he'll probably always think the cancer is back and I'm gonna die."
Hell, I'm thinking that myself!
Which brings me to today's scan…I barely slept last night as I thought about the barrage of symptoms that have presented themselves over the last few days: lung tightness, coughing, vaginal aches, rectal pains, vertigo. When I got out of bed this morning I was annoyed as I realized most of them hadn't magically disappeared like they sometimes do. I got the kids ready and off to school then I took a quick shower and got dressed. I mulled over my wardrobe, knowing I'd need to remove anything containing metal before the CT scan, including an underwire bra. I chose sweatpants without a metal ring around the drawstring and a hoodie without a zipper. Unfortunately the metal rings were on the hoodie but I thought they might be high enough not to interfere with the picture. Just in case, I threw on a tank top underneath it with the words, "I'm sleeping with the drummer" written across the chest. And, of course, I left the bra off. They'd make me remove it anyway.
Jimmi drove me to the cancer center and my mom arrived a few minutes later. The familiar trek up the stairs to the radiology department never gets any easier as all the old memories hit me instantaneously. I checked in, got my nasty "fruit punch" contrast drink and sat down to start sipping it. My mom and Jimmi talked and tried to keep the mood light but I wasn't interested. Too many things were going through my head. What if the cancer is back? Can I wait until after Christmas to start treatments again? Will we still go to Minnesota to see Lyndsay and Baby A's ultrasound next week? Will Baby A have a mommy in six months? Will my boys have a mommy in six months? Talk of the weather shook me back into the present. "We're supposed to get about five inches of snow tomorrow, " said my mom. "More like nine by us," I told her. "It was negative twenty-five with the windchill by Lyndsay's house a few days ago," I said. And then talk shifted to Baby A and my other set of worries. "What if the scan is ok and then we get bad news with the baby next week?" I asked. My mom just stared at me. "She hasn't felt the baby move yet," I explained. "She's almost eighteen weeks and nothing yet." My mom was stern with her questions, "Does she feel ok?" I nodded. "Does she think anything is wrong?" I shook my head. "Then stop worrying! She could be too small or in the wrong position to feel movement. I'm sure she's fine!"
The ringing phone distracted me and I watched as the man a few seats away answered his cell. I could immediately tell from the one-sided conversation that he was speaking to what appeared to be his wife's pain management doctor. His wife, however, was nowhere to be found. Probably in the middle of an MRI or something. "Yes, she's been taking the Ativan and the Dilaudid but the pain is still a nine out of ten," he explained. "Apparently, there's a tumor invading her scapula which caused a fracture and that's why she's in so much pain. Then there are the knees, which are a totally separate issue. They're about a five or six out of ten." I tried not to eavesdrop but he was so close to us and speaking so loudly. "No," he continued, "radiation isn't an option for that tumor so we're just gonna have to try and treat the pain." I could feel the saltwater behind my eyes start to sting. "No, she's having trouble focusing and she just falls asleep. I guess that's better than being in pain," the man was saying. My lower lip was quivering uncontrollably and I turned my head to try and shut the world out. "Yes, I understand. Ativan at bedtime, but continue with the Methadone and Dilauded for pain. Thank you, Doctor," and he hung up. My mom caught a glimpse of the tears falling to my lap and tried to soothe me with her words but it was no use. I could already see my future in that poor man's wife.
"Mrs. Kane?" the nurse's voice called from across the waiting room. I forced myself to my feet, waved goodbye to my family and followed the familiar nurse into the same freezing little room with the big chair and sink. I instantly started shivering from the cold or my nerves or some combination of both. I spelled my last name, confirmed my date of birth and asked about the metal on the neck of my hoodie, which was unfortunately denied. I removed my top layer and quickly became uncomfortable with the statement on my tank top. What seemed funny to those in the know now seemed inappropriately slutty to the rest of the population. I was glad when the nurse handed me a robe and a blanket before she had a chance to read it. "Which arm has the best veins?" she questioned and I knew she wouldn't be thrilled by my response. "They both suck," I said as I held them out for inspection. The look on her face told me I was correct in my assessment and she slapped a hot pack on each forearm to try and bring something to the surface, "Can I use your hand?" she asked. No, no, no! There will be none of that! "They've never had to do that before," I challenged, which brought out the competitor in her. "I can use this one," she said confidently as she pressed on my right arm, wiped it with alcohol and stuck the tiny catheter into the vein to start the saline drip. "They'll be in to get you shortly," said the nurse then she left the room.
I was disappointed when my old friend, Grumpy McGrumperson, appeared a few minutes later. Did this man ever smile? He took my IV bag from the holder and looked at me as if to demand, "Let's go!" I stood up obediently, then he asked, "Are you wearing an underwire bra?" I took my opportunity when it presented itself, batted my eyelashes and grinned, "No, actually, I'm going braless just for you!" The look on his face started out with shock then eased into a blushing smile. Yes! He smiled! He stumbled over his words before he laughed and barely got out, "Well, I don't think it was actually for me, but…" Not so Grumpy McGrumperson led me to the big, white CT scan machine and gave me instructions on positioning myself, which I knew by heart, then he covered me up and left the room.
"Breathe in!" said the automated voice in the machine and the table moved me through the giant hole. "Hold your breath!" I did what I was told. "Breathe." One more time through that set and the table came out of the abyss long enough for the nurse to inject some contrast dye into my IV then step out of the room. Then I was moving back in for three more rounds of "Breathe in, Hold your breath, and Breathe." And then it was all over. My IV was removed, my arm was wrapped and I was sent on my way.
I collected Jimmi and my mom and we all made the reverse trip down to Dr. L's office. The waiting room was crowded and I was happy they'd actually been able to squeeze me in. The coughing picked up a bit and it made my heart race when I thought about the results I was about to hear. About 20 minutes later I was following my second favorite nurse down the corridor to the exam room closest to Dr. L's office. "Is Nurse L here today?" I asked, bummed to find out she was off Christmas shopping. "You'll have to let her know what we find out," I said. She nodded, "You're gonna be fine!" The nurse wrapped a cuff around my arm and waited for the reading, which was ridiculously high by my standards. "You REALLY hate coming here, don't you?" she asked as she unhooked me from the machine and pointed to a sheet on the counter. "You know the drill, right?" I nodded, "Yup. Get naked."
Jimmi and my mom went to the other side of the curtain until my girly bits were safely hidden under the almost see-through sheet, then they resumed their positions in the chairs on either side of me. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would run out of batteries. Why is he taking so long? Is he talking to another doctor about my next course of action?
Here come the footsteps. Dr. L burst into the room with a nurse I've only seen once or twice, "How are you?" he asked in a voice that was barely there. He knows not to ask me that question because I always reply with, "You tell me," so he didn't wait for my answer. "Your scan was normal," he said. "Everything looks good right now. You have a spot in your lung that's been there forever and hasn't changed, but we all have spots in our lungs. It's nothing." My mom sighed with relief and I asked, "Then why am I coughing?" He laughed, "Maybe you have a cold? I have a cold. People get colds." I went on, "But I know this could come back in my lungs." He nodded as he looked at my chart, "Wow. It's been two and a half years since your surgery? I don't think it's coming back." I heard his words but I tried not to put too much faith in them. I've seen what this disease can do. But, still, it was really nice to hear them! "Let me examine you," he said as he stood up and hit a button to lower the table. Jimmi and my mom went back behind the curtain and the nurse handed Dr. L the scary looking speculum, "Did you really lube it up?" I asked her, knowing the damage the radiation had done to my love canal. She took it back and added some more goo to the tip then Dr. L went to work inserting it, "Ouch, ow!" I whined. "If that hurts you should really use your dilator more often," he said, referring to the medically prescribed dildo I'm supposed to use regularly to keep things, um, loose in there. "I've told you I hate that thing!" I complained and he made another suggestion, "Then go to an adult toy store and get something you'll like better, but you have to use something. The radiation damage will just continue to get worse and worse." I nodded, though I had no intention of following orders. It's not that I don't want my vag to be in perfect working condition, it's the mental aspect of the whole thing. I just can't get myself to do it without tensing up and freaking out about cancer and all the havoc it's wreaked on my body. After replacing the speculum with a gloved finger, which was definitely much more comfortable, Dr. L announced, "Everything feels normal. Merry Christmas and I'll see you in three months."
As we were walking out of the center, much more relaxed than when we'd arrived, I had another paranoid fear, "What if we got good news today because we're gonna have bad news with the baby next week?" My mom's face changed and I could tell she wanted to strangle me, "Will you STOP? Can't I just enjoy the good for a few days before you start worrying me again? The baby is fine!" I guess someone out there wanted to prove that my mom is always right because, a few minutes later, this e-mail from Lyndsay appeared in my inbox:
Hey!! Wanted to let you know that I had an appointment with Dr. C just a bit ago. He sent me a message on Weds wanting to know if I would meet with him yesterday or today before next week just to make sure all is good.
Everything is great! Baby is moving like crazy and heartbeat is 143! He didn't measure since that will all be done next week. I didn't want to bother you or worry you about it with your scans today. Hopefully you're not upset! I was there for less than 10 minutes just to get a peek at the baby. Thought you would want to know she is moving great! He said she is very active.
For the millionth time today, the tears filled my eyes and trickled down my cheeks. But this time was different. This time was about hope, not despair. This time was about life, not death. This time made everything ok again.