Friends and Family,
Genevieve and I met with the oncologist today. There are no test results, so the only thing we have to go on for the moment is any change in symptoms. That's what has had me worried.
Last week I noticed some tightness in my chest. I thought it might be the beginning of a cold, so I started taking zinc lozenges and hoping I could head it off. Then Saturday night I woke up in the middle of the night with some mild pain in my left hip. I had noticed it in both hips for the past several weeks in the daytime, but it was now feeling worse.
Lying in bed, I started thinking about the last time my breathing got worse and I had hip pain. That was when I found out that the cancer had grown in my lungs and spread to my bones, particularly my hips. Radiation killed the hip pain, and Tarceva shrunk the lung tumors, so despite the progression of the cancer everything has gone well over the past 14 months. Until now.
While I was thinking about this, I was also thinking about two people I know who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past month. In addition, my buddy Craig, who has the same type of lung cancer as me and has been on Tarceva for about the same amount of time as me, has had some growth in his cancer and is waiting to start a different treatment. Perhaps I was empathizing too much, but all of this together was starting to feel pretty ominous.
Did I mention that I had this conversation with myself in the middle of the night? I had to remind myself of this, and talk myself into thinking about something else until I could (eventually) get back to sleep.
When I woke up Sunday morning I re-evaluated, now that I had a well-rested and fully conscious brain. I reminded myself that whenever I have had a sudden worsening of symptoms in the past, these symptoms have been false alarms. Last year I was sure that the cancer had suddenly grown, but it turns out the hip pain was worse because I had been hiking more for about a week. At another point my breathing suddenly got worse, and I again assumed the cancer was growing at an alarming rate. Wrong again. It was a medication causing shortness of breath, and it went away instantly when I went off the med.
I took all of this in and re-evaluated my circumstances. Genevieve and I hiked up a fairly steep trail Sunday, and I noticed that she was breathing just as hard as me. So, whew. Maybe I can take breathing symptoms off the list of concerns. Then I remembered that since we got our new phones, Genevieve and I have been using the pedometer app. I have doubled my average daily steps since getting the new phone, so since then my hips have gotten sore. That’s right, I'm blaming all this worry about the growth of cancer in my bones on Samsung.
Well, Samsung PLUS listening to my fears at 2:30 in the morning.
So here is where I am going with this. As my therapist keeps reminding me, it is good to address your fears. If you don't, they will get harder and harder to manage, and eventually they will eat you alive (OK, perhaps that’s overly dramatic.) However, it is even better to make good choices about WHEN you address your fears.
After all of this angst over what has turned out to be nothing, there are a couple of good things that have come from this. First, it put me a little more in touch with the very real fear that I could run out of options at any time. Every time I come up against this, I root around in my fears for a while before I eventually reach in and find a little more acceptance for whatever comes my way. Each new wave of fear is followed by a little deeper level of acceptance. I would rather live for a very long time, but if that doesn't happen, I will be in a much better place to accept what is inevitable for all of us.
The other thing that comes with all of this is an even deeper appreciation for what a pleasure it is to live in this world. That means living right here, and right now. Not when I go on vacation, or when the college football season starts. Right now.
I’m in the lobby of my oncologist as I write this. I’m enjoying people watching, and the cute little Chihuahua that one of the patients brought in, and watching out the window at a barge being built at Zidell, and sitting next to Genevieve, and even the Ranger Rick magazine with the story about raising an orangutan.
I take all of that in, and I am filled with gratitude for the pleasure of this day.
Maybe I shouldn't be too tough on Samsung. After all, my phone has helped me face my fears, accept the possibility of death, and feel more gratitude and appreciation for the life I have.
I guess there really is an app for that.