Perhaps it was the red pants that led me to know for sure. She popped into my mind the other day- Kathy- my research nurse that managed my care for almost my whole first year of breast cancer treatment.
She almost always wore black but with some pop of color mixed in. Sanford blue was not part of her wardrobe. She was young, attractive, organized, and a great problem-solver. She really was a liaison between me and Dr. P., and the infusion nurses. She'd schedule my tests, remembering I needed sedation, or, early mornings, or not on Mondays, and then hand me a well thought out and organized schedule of appointments that always worked for me. She came to see me at every infusion, every appointment.
When I got booted off the study, she no longer was involved with my care. Losing her, left such a huge hole for me to climb out. I had to learn how to navigate cancer world all on my own and it was a big task.
For some reason, I was thinking about her the other day. She left research, for another position and I haven't seen her in the last two years.
Yesterday, at infusion, in a sea of nurses adorned in blue, I caught sight of a slim woman entering an infusion room, wearing a black cardigan, with striking red pants. Could it be?
So I asked one of the nurses I know. Is that Kathy? It was. She's back. And while I didn't get to talk to her, I have a feeling I will somehow, again soon. I can only shake my head at the seeming coincidence of my thoughts of her that led to seeing her.
It felt good to see Dr. Panwalkar yesterday. I'm not sure what it is, but I think part of me absorbs the positive energy he often exudes. I also feel entirely in sync with him at times- with only a minimum of verbal exchanges between us.
There were only slight changes in my blood work and tumor markers. Even though my WBC is really low, there was simply not enough movement to warrant any scans, or changes in treatment.
Besides, other than some intense hot flashes, some swelling in my arm, hormonal headaches at times, really- I'm tolerating the Arimidex fairly well.
I grinned and told him, "its so much better than Tykerb," and he got a good laugh at that.
He also asked how the lymph node under my arm was doing… and I told him I had no idea… the thought doesn't occur to me to check.
He said "Ahhh, that is great! That is what I like to hear, you shouldn't be worrying about that." He checks under my arm. "I feel nothing he says," sounding pleased, patting the top of my shoulder a few times before he sits down again.
Its these tiny moments that I take with me. I scoop them up and carry them with me like a bag of tools, that I can reach for, when my own voice doubts, or becomes uncertain. Sometimes, I'm stuck worrying about what is to come, and forget to acknowledge the tumors we've conquered, the battles fought, and won.
And then we conclude with a quick discussion that yields the biggest new thing yet.
He says "and your wound?"
"Oh…" I say, "that." "Not good."
That poor mastectomy wound from 2 years ago, just won't heal. I've given up going to wound care. I can no longer afford the 188 dollar for 2 boxes of 3 bandages, that my new insurance won't cover.
Plus, we got sent to collections for 11 dollars. Yep- eleven dollars - in finance charges when we were trying to figure the whole mess out-got us into trouble. Its a fact that we still giggle over. (We're fine, one more phone call cleared the whole thing up, finally.) But I'm surrendered to a jerry-rigged garment thingy with all kinds of folded stuffing trying to double for the semblance of a breast shape under my shirt. That and, not having showered in over two years.
So Rick and I both shake our heads at the mention of that wound. I explain to him how its a constant process of scabbing over, then the scabs peeling off slowly, only to have the "hypertrophic granular skin," start to weep all over again.
So I dare to ask… "Is a hyperbaric chamber too extreme to consider for my wound healing?" Its the only treatment left, outside of surgery. Its hours away from here and usually requires weeks of treatment at Mayo Clinic.
He thinks maybe yes. But then, he wonders. "Should we discuss surgery again? You're not doing chemo, so surgery might be a good option for you right now."
He offers to get in touch with Dr. Antoniuk, the plastic surgeon I've seen before. She had offered to do a pretty amazing reconstruction procedure once before, but I had too much treatment I was doing first.
As Dr. P walks me to infusion,
suddenly I realize, the doors to the next thing- a very big new adventure, are bursting wide open.