I don't try to carry too much with me anymore. It's hard to go back through the recesses of my mind for anything weighty, or medical- related, or too detailed. I know I'm about to find out if I have another primary cancer, and yet I haven't had the steely nerve to google just what this would mean for me.
But when I walk into the lobby of Roger Maris Cancer Center, my steps become leaden, and my shoulders round, as the weight of it all enshrouds me. My pager buzzes and as the nurse takes me in to weigh me, I shed as much as I can. My coat, my boots, my scarf, my sweater, my bags, my burdens, my anxieties, it all heaps on the nearest chair. I simply can't carry it all anymore. I feel like I'll weigh 532 pounds with all that comes with me.
My focus, now heightens, keen and alert. My questions que up in my brain, clambering to be heard and acknowledged. My prayer is for my heart to have enough space for anything new I need to absorb, and strength for my body to somehow carry more.
It's been 3 weeks since I've seen Dr. Panwalkar. But I've been seen by Dr. Tinguely, who performed the biopsy of my uterus, and then had a 3D vaginal ultrasound completed. I missed her call to me, however, and she was booked with surgery all day the day the results came in.
So I waited for results until this past Tuesday, the 13th, when I saw Dr. P.
He enthusiastically greets me as he strides into the room. "I was just reading the pathology report... here, lets look together." He points to the screen and I squint, not sure I'm ready to see with my eyes. But there it is...
blah, blah blah... breast cancer... blah blah
The pathology report says the findings are consistent with breast cancer cells, not uterine cancer. How is this possible? I've never felt such utter relief to hear, "You have breast cancer."
Yet, I take a short breath. I know there is more. I'm hyper focused on what comes next. Once again, we're chartering new territory. Its HIGHLY unusual for breast cancer to metastasize to the uterus- yet its surrounded my colon before, and we found it on my ovaries when they were removed- this is all very rare and the path is simply unclear.
"Surgery?" I ask. "Will we remove my uterus now?"
Dr. P leans back, and his arms come up to his face in thoughtfulness. "Well..."
I quickly insert what I know..."its tricky to do surgery, when I need treatment to growing tumors in my lungs. We'd have to stop chemo, and even then, healing may be compromised."
"Yes," he says, "true." "Plus we know that there is no increased survival benefit to removing the tumors, not with breast cancer. We don't debulk, because there is no benefit- and getting clean margins in this instance can be almost impossible."
"We should continue systemic treatment- the chemo regimen you are on, and watch and see."
He motions to the exam table and I laugh as he throws the gown on the table, off to a chair and then helps me up. We're way beyond such formality. Yet, he is thorough in checking my stomach, which is not as tender to the touch, and has many questions about how I am doing.
We conclude and he says, "well you seem to be doing just fine."
He turns to write orders for chemo, and I happen to ask about my lab work. He flips on the screen and we both flinch as the red warning signs leap off the screen!
"Oh! He says... shaking his head. "Your counts are way too low. Oh, .6. No, no chemo for you." We start looking ahead to see when I could possibly start the next round, but its the week of Christmas.
He is leaning back again in his chair, deep in thought.
"Do you want to just wait until January 3rd? How do you feel about that?"
I'm trying to read him, as he tries to read me, and suddenly we both laugh. He simply tells me its not like my cancer is racing away right now. I should be ok to wait, as long as I continue to feel ok.
I have such a deep sense of trust. He seems to have a 6th sense for my body, and my cancer, and I simply tune into his intuitive nature.
He asks if there is anything else I need?
I've saved the best for last...
A small gift he can share with his family. A travel book with all kinds of fun facts about each of the states in the US. He literally starts paging through it, smiling and genuinely seems engaged with it. He then opens our family Christmas photo, and again studies it.
"They're so big! He exclaims, looking at the boys. The youngest looks like Rick, and Vicky, the oldest looks like you." He raises his eyebrows as he looks to me, and I smile, and nod.
We've exhausted our time, and need to move on. My emotions are welling in my throat. He's holding the very thing that matters the most to me. This image sears in my brain. He has breathed life back into my moments.
He leads me down the hall, my walk lighter, my back straighter again....and as we part he leans in and whispers to me... "Have a Merry Christmas..." and I barely whisper back..."Merry Christmas to you."
Source: Tyler Knott Gregson