I'm guilty . . . of the very thing my doctor warned me about.
It's been over two months since my radiation treatment, and I show my gratitude by going radio silent. Classy.
Four days after my last blog entry, I returned to my doctor for the results of, what I lovingly refer to as, "being lit". Anxiety was immediately upon me when I woke up. What if the scan isn't clean? What if it has spread? What if they have to do another round? I took a few attempts at optimism, but was brushed back by waves of uncertainty and--well, just bleeeeech. Even if the scans are clean, I have to visit this damn hospital practically every month while they regulate my hormones. I have to be back in three months anyway for another scan. I am going to spend way too much of 2011 in the bowels of Cedars-Sinai hospital. Bleeeeech! Not even my turquoise sweater--if I'm getting bad news, I'm going to get it looking good!--was enough to make me feel better. It was a quiet drive to the hospital.
I sat cross-legged on the exam table while D.R. sat patiently in a chair next to me. My doctor came in carrying my chart.
"As we expected, your scans look good. All of the traces were localized in your neck, which is where we want them. We seem to have removed all the cancer with surgery; it has not spread."
Ooooo, I think I just heard a choir and lots of tambourines. "I need to schedule another scan in three months, right?"
"Actually, no. We need to do a scan in 6-12 months to see if it has recurred or spread. We'll do an ultrasound instead of the radiation scan, and we'll do some blood work. Those two things will give us the answers we need."
"Wait . . . 6-12 months seems like a wide range of time." I need hard and fast numbers, people!
I saw him scrunch his chin and smile slightly. "Let's split the difference and have you back here in 9 months. How's that?"
I felt a tiny bit foolish. I was so caught up in numbers and levels and protocols that I lost my ability to do simple math, nor did I recognize that he was giving me flexibility as an offering of comfort and reassurance.
"I thought I had to come see you, like, every month for--I don't know--stuff that requires tourniquets and needles?"
"We will need to periodically check your hormone levels to get that regulated, but that requires a simple blood test every few months. I don't even need to be there." He was enjoying a moment of ironic satisfaction that I was ecstatic about not seeing him for a while.
And just like that, it was kinda . . . over. Along with my test results, my doctor gave me back the proverbial breath that I had been holding for four months. I don't remember what I did next. I have a vague recollection of D.R. and I taking Alice B. to the dog park later that afternoon. I may have eaten a sandwich.
I just went . . . on.
It is here that I must apologize because I did the very thing my doctor warned me about. He begged me not to Google thyroid cancer when I was diagnosed because he knew that for every horrible account I read online, there were many more healthy and grateful survivors living healthy and grateful lives. Why aren't they sharing their stories? Because they are busy living their stories. I wanted to be the person that shared my triumph and my overcoming! I wanted to send my light of hope over a sea of gigabytes! I wanted to detail all the wonderful ways that my life and perspective have changed! But that's the thing . . .
It's not really all that different.
Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all skipping and Skittles since March. I had a horrible taste in my mouth for about a month that made everything I ate or drank taste like a penny. I have varying degrees of boob pain that--best-case scenario--have me slapping D.R.'s hands away, and--worst-case scenario--had me convinced I was pregnant and would have to terminate the pregnancy because of radiation (scary, awful, and I've never been more grateful for my period). I've had back and joint pain that no amount of stretching or massage can alleviate. My skin is dry, and there are days when eight full glasses of water don't quench my thirst. These are all symptoms that, I'm told, will go away as my hormones are regulated.
Any time D.R. walks around without a shirt (wahoo!) I am stealthily inspecting his freckles. I am incessantly reminding my sister to get her thyroid checked (she finally went to a doctor this week), and quizzing family members about their medical history. A few of my female friends have been on the business end of lectures about thyroid health--pointing fingers and all. Old episodes of Grey's Anatomy make me cry more than they used to (that could just be because I miss when it used to be a good show. Ya know, before Izzy started sleeping with a dead guy?). These are all symptoms that, I'm told, will go away once my emotions catch up with my brain.
It's all a matter of healing, and we all have a different process. I'm not skydiving. I'm not learning foreign languages. I'm not writing my autobiography (yet). I'm not dying my hair green, going vegan and moving into a yurt.
I am, however, listening more. I am crying more. I am running faster. I am standing up for myself. I am letting the laundry pile up higher than I used to. I am keeping cookies in the house even though there is a chance I could eat them all in 3.5 minutes. I am writing things down that I want to write about later. I am teaching my momma the ways of the iPhone. I am having conversations with my stepmother that we normally wouldn't have had. I am taking chances and stretching muscles that haven't been stretched in a while. I am telling more people in my life that I love them.
I am, once again, finding the life in the every day.
Maybe that's the secret: life can change in an instant, but sometimes that instant isn't grand and booming. Sometimes it's small and quiet and just gives a wee nudge to the left or right. Sometimes it takes a tornado; sometimes it takes a conversation. Maybe it's a new old dream; maybe it's a new old couch. Could be tears and laughter; could be scotch and soda. I love when life changes my point of view and gets my attention. 'Cause life, my friends, deserves attention.