As an update to this:
Tag Archives: test results
I thought I was in the all-clear for the moment as far as tests go, but April 30th’s pap smear–I’d assumed hearing nothing for so long was a good thing–apparently turned up abnormalities. This is not the first time this has happened, but it is the first time I have reason to be worried. They ask for a retest in six months. The waiting will never be over, or the worry.
Pelvic pains too, and waiting for my period, perhaps? Having had more or less regular periods since their return six months ago, last month was marked by a light period as predicted, then a hard sudden hemmorhage two weeks later. I don’t know what to expect now. Handy that the possible side effects of Tamoxifen include both irregular periods and uterine cancer, the hallmarks of both being vaginal bleeding.
Holding the gynecologist’s letter in my hand–Your pap results showed signs of cellular abnormalities–I could not escape the sickness and anger and the why me, why now. “I hate my life right now,” I texted–though predictive text first suggested the phrase, “I have my life right now,” which seemed somehow significant.
I have my life right now.
I’d like to ride that out awhile.
I had prepared myself for the worst possible news but still not quite expected it–mastectomy, or a waiting list for one at least. A terrible uncertainty, weeks or months of waiting for worse news. For the moment, waititing to see the Oz-like Dr. S. on Monday, who cancelled last week’s chemo without a word to the surgeon, then upom speaking with her apparently agreed to sanction one or two more sessions of Taxotere while I wait for the mastectomy. I over overloaded with information from the surgeon that I’d expected I should have known before choosing to begin chemo–for instance, that a lumpectomy was never actually a viable option, with a 50% chance of local recurrence in a lifetime. Also, that they cannot know whether the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes until surgery. So I must wait for an appointment for a sentinel node biopsy–which isn’t even necessarily accurate–and an additional week for its results. And I cannot even begin to allow myself to imagine the worst possible outcome for that, even at the disastrous course I’ve already set.
Alternating disbelief and bitterness. I cannot concentrate on anything–anger and self-pity and ugliness. Unable to plan for, focus on, commit to anything–not with all this doubt and fear and ignorance and uncertainty surrounding me. If I felt I were recovering–but will I ever feel I am recovering, or constantly fear its ugly, dreadful presence in me?
I’ve been neglectful of the project of this blog lately, something I feel is right and timely. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I stop writing about cancer entirely.
My MRI was, a nurse said as I stood clutching my cell phone in the parking lot of my place of employment, “a good MRI.” Ie, no signs of malignancy in the left breast.
And the MRI was “a good MRI” overall, really; going to the hospital at 9 AM on a Saturday morning was surreal and quiet, near-peaceful. The nurse who put in my IV was kind; she gave me a warm blanket and said I looked scared. But I wasn’t scared of the experience; it is so familiar–the sharp stab of the needle into the inner fold of my elbow, the tug of blood in the tube, the clicks and whirs of the awful machinery (the tubular monstrosity always reminds me of a photograph of myself with my brother, five years old, sitting in front of a shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center ) in which I lie facedown and half-naked, trying to keep still for twenty-five minutes. I am not afraid of your tools, your accoutrements, surroundings. I am only afraid of my own uncontrollable body.
Dear Readers: I shall continue writing here until the end of August, share my journal entries from the treatment, chronicle a complete year. And then I do not want write this blog any longer. Or, not until the next time I encounter cancer, which I can only hope will be never.
Post MRI state of my life: I am not satisfied, but I am quietened. In this moment, I am not overly desperate for escape. I do not want for anything but to read books, and to be here, and watch in awe as my shattered heart continues to develop its capacity for love.
& I do NOT have a BRCA mutation.
Which is, yes, good news. Who wants to take me out for a martini? But my sense of emotional relief is tempered by the rational knowledge that this relief is largely artificial and unfounded, since I’ve already had f-ing cancer, and could die from it still. And there’s no certain explanation for it now; cancer being genetic & all, not having the BRCA mutation likely means there’s some other genetic malfunction in me that hasn’t been discovered (and patented) yet.
I am taking the same course of action in light of these results as I promised myself I would if I tested positive: ie, doing nothing. But do feel blessedly exempt from that pressure of BRCA-scaremongering into preventative surgery.
I really wonder whether there is something defunct with my primal sense of self-preservation. I’d probably feel differently about preventative surgeries if I had children, or a life’s work, or anything else to live for. But I thought about it as I lay in bed this morning, hitting the snooze button over and over, and came to the same old conclusion: how presumptuous it seemed to act as if my life was really all that important–and how pointless it seemed to go through such great pains to prolong it.
Which is why I am dreading my upcoming mammogram, and why I have not called for the results of the CT scan I had six weeks ago. If I have cancer, still or again, I don’t want to know. I don’t want any more treatment. It’s terror and desperation, exhaustion and depression. But I can’t sustain myself on any of that, and I don’t want to.
(I am eligible to be tested for Li-Fraumeni syndrome, but would have to pay $3,000 for the privilege. And really, there’s not much point in knowing anyway, since there’s nothing anyone can do but wait for you to get brain tumors and leukemia and all the rest.)
I’m still obviously at risk for a new breast cancer on the left side, or for a recurrence/metastasis of the primary cancer. But I realized the full implication of the negative test result about twenty miles from the hospital, and burst into tears in the middle of traffic on I-79: as far as I know, I’m at no greater risk for ovarian cancer than the rest of the general population.
And I thought of all the women walking around with their ovaries inside of them, not even thinking about it, certainly not shedding tears of joy on the interstate over it, and felt strange–but strangely elated. Even if I can never have children, there is something psychologically comforting about keeping those bits where they belong–and not having to defend to the death my decision to do so.
Then on NPR, an interview with Vic Chesnutt, & this rather incredible song:
which he described as a “breakup” with death & the temptation of suicide.
Bizarre how Fate sometimes supplies a soundtrack.
Oh death, oh death
Really, I’m not ready