A few weeks ago, I picked up some sort of stomach bug—or maybe it was food poisoning. I’m still not sure what it was. But what I am certain of is that I haven’t been that “sick” in years. I couldn’t even recall the last time I felt so bad.
Yes, I’m dealing with cancer, but that’s been more like being “sick” without feeling sick, but everyone tells you that you are.
But on this day, I was so sick, vomiting beyond control as I tried to reason what had caused it. Because I had recently finished radiation, I hadn’t worked my way back into social settings, except for the occasional restaurant, so I wasn’t sure I had picked up a virus. I had, however, started taking the hormone inhibitor medication that I would be taking for the next ten years. Admittedly, I had some fears after reading the long list of side effects. In fact, I had been sent to get a bone scan (as a starting point) since one of the main side effects was the thinning of my bones. Others included nausea and flulike symptoms. Grasping for whatever this could be, I contacted my doctor’s nurse and asked. She assured me it wasn’t, so I moved on—finally deciding the chicken I had eaten the night before had given me food poisoning. After all, it had come on quickly and was so violent—just like food poisoning.
Fast forward forty-eight hours and I’m better. WARNING: prepare for rant.
I’ve grown tired of seeing doctors—and yes, I know they are there to help me. And they are…helping me. But I’m also tired of asking simple questions during a visit or call and seeing “she has anxiety over this or that,” because I asked questions. OF COURSE, I have anxiety over it. And OF COURSE, I’m going to ask questions. Wouldn’t you? I think if positions were reversed, they would, as well.
I was going about life in a reasonable fashion, doing the things I was supposed to do, avoiding things I knew to avoid, and was told something to the effect, “You have cancer, but we don’t know the extent.” What no one told me was I’d wait three months to find out anything substantial. And of course, during every day I would worry. How could I not?
Finally, I was told it was stage one. But in almost the same breath, I found out the test that would determine my best path to a cure would require another lab test on the tissue they extracted several weeks prior, during surgery. Wait another two weeks to find out whether I’d need chemo and radiation or radiation, alone. When the answers finally came, we were told I would just need radiation. JUST RADIATION? Like that is a walk in the park. I escaped having chemo, but I still had questions.
But this “slow train” is how treatment goes even when your mind screams, “get it out of me!” And I understand the myriad of reasons—most having to do with the increase of cancer cases because people skipped their mammograms and other “well doctor visits” during the pandemic. I understand and try hard to remain calm. But yes, I’m a little anxious, as is my husband. Even though I’m into the final phase of the treatment—the long game, as I call it—cancer never completely leaves my mind.
But once again, I became very upset when I read the latest doctor’s notes after once again, reading that I was anxious.
It was an integrative cancer specialist doctor who works with patients to help focus on the future and preventing the return of cancer. When I read the doctor’s notes in my patient portal—a doctor that met me that one time online, and talked longer than I did during the twenty-minute meeting said, “the patient presents as anxious about the possibility of losing bone mass, gaining weight, etc.” I had asked a question…maybe two. This is a doctor who should be there for questions!
I am not anxious. I am concerned and I remain concerned and have questions. Should “she presents as anxious” be a valid clinical observation for asking a question?
Thankfully, the volume of doctor’s visits is thinning. And I have been blessed beyond measure on my journey and am thankful for everything, including my doctors. But this cancer excursion has been like sitting in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam with tornado warnings sounding overhead and a flipped over semi-rig a dozen cars behind you…and you’re told to stay in your car where you will have the best chance of survival.
Would you feel anxious?
I had the girls the other day and they decided they had played with everything, watched everything, and wanted to do something “fun.” I asked if they wanted to bake brownies and stuff. “YES!” Was the response. So they decided to bake both brownies and a cake. Once they had it all mixed up— they baked them. And WATCHED! It was a fun afternoon.
The younger grandminion declared the oldest grandminion baked the best dessert— an iced sprinkle cake!