Monday, December 22, 2014

FEAR is when the Big C word is mentioned. AND I HATE IT

So last Friday, I got my first ever colonoscopy. After getting a clean bill of health from my gynecologist (that lovely pap smear was fine), and the breast people (I had a mammogram last month and it was 'all clear'), I decided it was time to do the dreaded colonoscopy. I am not yet 50 years old and I do not have a history of colon cancer in my family. But, hey, I beat the odds with myeloma (I have no discernible risk factors and yet I got it, lucky me). And my close friend from high school (we went to Hawaii together after I graduated from high school and we spent far too many days skiing together and meeting cute ski instructors and then partying with them on the weekends), Mandy, died at the age of 44 from colon cancer. Mandy was diagnosed just a few weeks after I was diagnosed and when they caught it, it was Stage IV (mine was stage III) that had spread to her lung and hip. She encouraged everyone to get a colonoscopy before she died. Since hearing that warning (I was on a cruise in Greece at the time), it's been in the back of my head. And I finally did it.

Actually, getting a colonoscopy is easy-peezy. The awful part is the prep-- swallowing five Dulcolax, drinking enormous amounts of red Gatorade (and I HATE Gatorade) with an ENTIRE bottle of Miralax in it, plus that awful fizzy thing drink, I wanted to puke my guts out. By the time I went to get the test, they simply gave me a margarita cocktail of drugs through my IV and the next thing you know, they were waking me up and it was over. And I was starving. The doctor said all was great, green light, no signs of cancer. Hooray!

Today I went to my eye doctor for my follow up exam. I have tremendously dry eyes (thanks, chemo!) and there are times I want to claw them out. I am using Restasis two times a day and it is helping. The doctor says my left eye is totally healed and my right eye is about 50 percent healed. I am responding beautifully to treatment. Hooray!

And then I celebrated this milestone by getting my first-ever Botox injections! I am actually going to write a whole article for Divorced Moms on this one, probably next week. I am waiting for the full effect so I can more fully report out if the $550 tab is worth it. And if I love it, maybe I'll get a little fillers. Call me vain and silly (you'd be right!) but after all the awful stuff I've been through, I feel like I need a pick-me-up. I feel like I look tired and worn out all the time. It's age but it's also Dex, and Velcade and Thalidomide, and stress, and cancer and... all of it! Sometimes yoga, happiness, breathing, rest, and love just doesn't get rid of the wear and tear I've endured. Plus it gives me something new to write about.

But my story for the day does not end here. I had a home nurse come by, compliments of my health insurance company, for one of these little "wellness" visits. I used to do these when I worked and my employer would put $100 in my Flex-Spending account. Now my insurance company is giving me a WalMart gift card for an incentive. I declined the offer three times but I finally acquiesced. I mean, really, what is a home health nurse going to tell me that a weekly visit to my oncologist not? So he comes over, lists all the drugs and vitamins I'm taking, takes my weight, and then... he feels my neck. And tells me that my thyroid is enlarged and I needed to get that checked out. It could be nothing, a result of all the meds I take, or cancer. Huh??? Did he say CANCER. Oh my gosh I wanted him to get the FUCK out of my house because my head was spinning. Bad flashback of three years prior, Christmas, I'm here in Utah on vacation from my home in San Diego and I got that FIRST CALL from my doctor in San Diego that routine blood work showed some weird stuff and he was referring me to hematology/oncology. It was a horrible nightmare. I spent the rest of vacation researching on the internet if I was dying, trying to self-diagnose, and running off to Urgent Care to see if they could somehow diagnose me early. I was going crazy with fear. And all of those horrible things came rushing back. I ran to the Internet looking up thyroid cancer. I called my oncologist's office and spoke with my nurse, Jen. She seemed as baffled as I was. I told her I felt nothing enlarged and I didn't know what he was talking about. Jen said they'd examine me on Friday at my weekly visit.

I hung up and I was sick. No way was I waiting until Friday, trying to smile over Christmas while I was sick to my stomach afraid of a new CANCER to deal with! So I rushed off to Urgent Care with my mom (gosh, this was familiar, and not in a good way). We met with the doctor. No signs of thyroid anything. No enlargement, no swollen lymph nodes or glands, no visible signs of anything, no symptoms. He had no idea what the heck that nurse was talking about either. And neither did I.

Relief. No fear about thyroid cancer at all from me. Thank goodness! Now I can just look in the mirror tomorrow to see if there are signs of fewer wrinkles from the Botox.

But this is one of the many reasons cancer SUCKS BEYOND BELIEF. I am afraid of everything slightly strange with my body. A bruise, a sore tongue, a cut that won't stop bleeding, a cough... is it CANCER? It takes my peacefulness away because my body is a foreign and unpredictable object to me. It has failed me once, will it fail me again? The answer is YES. Our bodies will, at won't point (or perhaps many) fail every single one of us. Because none of us are getting out of this alive. And when you have fought CANCER, we know this all too well, and that realization never leaves us. Even when we're laughing, or crying, or having fun, stuck in traffic and wanting to shoot the car in front of us, or... whatever. Nagging somewhere in the back of our minds is the fact that CANCER exists, it lurks, and it wants us DEAD. It is evil and powerful, dark and terrible. And light, hope, resilience and a KICK ASS attitude, drugs, good nutrition, and loads of answered prayers is one powerful weapon against that evil. I have a HUGE ARSENAL and I will WIN.

And so there you have it. Happy Monday,

Lizzy