MRI + More January 21, 2012

Friends and Family,

Bad news on the health front. I'm turning into my grandmother.

You know how we all have that secret fear that one day we will wake up, look in the mirror, and see one of our parents looking back? I've skipped a generation.

Conversations with Gramma would go like this: "How are you, Gramma?" Gramma would then recount her last visit with her doctor, word for word, including a description of when her doctor smiled, or chuckled, or looked concerned. If there was an ongoing health issue involved, the conversation would also include relevant portions of previous conversations. I found it best to ask Gramma this question when sitting next to a table with snacks, so I could keep up my nourishment throughout the story. For a woman with health issues, my Gramma had stamina.

So now it's me doing this. Someone asks, "How are you, Dann?" At this point I have an internal debate. Do I give this person my latest health report? Or do I give some socially acceptable response such as "I'm fine"? The wheels churn as I calculate whether there is anything new to share, if what I find important will seem important to this person, whether they are really just saying "hello", etc.

The tone of conversation has changed at home as well. Here's an example: Genevieve comes home, and I say, "Hi Sweetheart. Let's go upstairs to our bedroom. I'll slip off my shirt - and you can check to see how my incision is healing."

This incision conversation went on for four months because the chemo slowed the healing from my biopsy surgery in August. Now that it's healed I can do Manly Man things at the gym again like lift weights (grrrrr), shoot hoops, and, um, do yoga. But even the Chemo Lite causes some side effects, so Genevieve and I are still having daily conversations about my health.

I get why Gramma talked about her health so much. When your life depends on it, and it's fragile, it becomes the focus of conversation. It's just that I don't want to feel like I'm 93 yet, and I want room in my marriage for broader, richer conversations.

We talk about cold symptoms (ongoing for 3+ months), escalated blood pressure, and a headache. The headache wouldn't be an issue, except that it hasn't gone away for several weeks. Since the first place that lung cancer usually spreads is to the brain, my doctor got concerned. On Tuesday he ordered an MRI to find out if I have a brain tumor.

Ron, a friend of mine, died of lung cancer last year after it spread to his brain. Once it spread he had radiation treatment, and his functioning declined rapidly. The memory of Ron brought this even closer to home. Genevieve and I were both distracted, distant and on edge. If the doctor was going to worry about a brain tumor, we were going to be worried about a brain tumor. Neither of us could sleep well from Tuesday until Friday, when my doctor called.

The MRI showed no cancer in my brain. I feel about two tons lighter. I'm now taking blood pressure medication, which should take care of the headache. And I'm well enough to share my health news with all of you by email.

Gramma would be jealous.