Sometimes I forget that I Need to Remember All of It

When I posted this on FB the other day I was sitting at a computer bank that’s reserved for patients & families at M.D Anderson Cancer Care Hospital. (I love M.D Anderson. They saved my body, now I’m working on my mind.) I was typing with this big IV in my left arm that bruised my vein. It was the same vein that my PICC line has been in and as this bruise came to the top of skin and swelled, my body remembered procedures and that time of sickness faster than my mind would let me.

All of a sudden I was ‘patient’ again. It was strange. It was flashback without the flash.  It was fast-forward for the next day I had endoscopy which would require sedation and another IV. The last time I had endoscopy the doc found cancer.

I was alone on this trip to MDA. When my husband and I looked at schedules, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, at least, the best choice.  I wanted to feel independent. Prove I was ‘strong’ (see other post). I called my husband at one point to whine, and did. Then I called my sister to whine but couldn’t stand the sound of my own whining so we talked about roses and gardens.

When I called my sister I sat outside with a stranger. The hospital is always chilly. She seemed frail to me. I did what I do at MDA, I asked her what kind of cancer treatment she’s coping with. (I think we cope with treatment rather than battle cancer, who needs war metaphors?) She said lung cancer, then quickly added, I”m not a smoker!”

I said: “I wasn’t even thinking that.”

She said: “So many people do.”

“Yes, but that’s blaming the victim for their disease. No one asks for this!” I held up my hands to the hospital, those in treatment walking around with face masks attached to IV poles, the hats and heads cleared of hair.  People are diagnosed with MS, Ataxia, ALS, among other life threatening diseases and there is immediate compassion. In the cancer world, lung cancer and colorectal cancer, and I assume skin, one gets support as well as a thread of ‘what did you do wrong to get this horrible disease’ which sticks, no matter how much one tries to not take such thoughts in.

This woman was told by her first (not MDA) oncologist that she had six months to live. She asked him, what’s the treatment plan but he said there was really nothing. She cried in her office and it pissed him off. She and husband went home and called the doc’s nurse asked “What would you do if it were your mother”. The nurse said: “Oh I’d walk her across the street and take her to MD Anderson!”And they did. Six years ago. Six years of life. Stage Four lung cancer and six years of living.

Like me she has chemo-brain. . .yes I still have issues with memory and peripheral neuropathy.  . . she relies on her partner to keep her meds in order and dose her at the right times. We are the same and different. I sat in the sun with her feeling six years. Feeling my almost three years from when I first heard the word ‘malignant’.

Later, I posted to FB. I drank my barium, spilled some it on myself which required me to need to change into scrubs.  I finally went to my friend’s house around 7:00 PM, knowing I had to stop eating and drinking anything at midnight. I had to return there by 7:00 AM for my scope.  I moved through Friday appointments in a fog of anesthesia and the weight of pending results from the tests. It was exhausting. I forgot to take care of myself well.

I called my husband and said: “This was a bad idea.” I was on my cell phone, I took a room at our favorite Econolodge and ate comfort food, zapped in the microwave and drank lots of water.

Four days later, I can tell you, my biopsy is negative.  My CEA is elevated. I”m half way to six years. There is no expiration date anywhere on my body and my docs at M.D Anderson mean to keep it that way.

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