Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My six month visit

Yesterday was my 6 month visit to my oncologist, and as I sat patiently waiting in the exam room my thoughts began to race. How many times had I sat in this exact room, this exact chair over the years? The soft cotton blue gown covering only my upper body.  I glanced up at the pictures of deer in brown wooden frames. My doctor was a fisherman, but I don't think he is a hunter.  The one to the right of me had a picture of three deer-bucks I'm guessing-because the caption under the pic said "The Buck Stops Here."  How clever, for a moment my thoughts were distracted.  Trying hard not to listen to the conversation taking place in the exam room directly across the hall (which happened to be my favorite exam room), their muffled conversation was reminiscent of the ones I'd have when my ex would go with me.  I mean, I can literally count on one hand the number of times that happened.  I felt myself quickly sliding off the nice cushioned blue and green striped arm chair onto the proverbial  pity pot, but  instantly I scolded're alive...stay don't need someone sitting in that empty chair next to you.  I sat straighter and uncrossed my legs. Listening again to the hushed tones across the hall.  My favorite exam room...why was that I pondered?  Well, maybe it has something to do with the pictures plastering the walls of my favorite NBA team, the Spurs, along with their cute mascot the Coyote. The Coyote  always made everyone laugh, cheer and basically get into the game. When I was in that room I'd automatically take myself to one of the games...the electricity of the crowd, the music, the laughter...the excitement. Being at a game always makes me feel so alive.

In some ways today's visit wasn't any different than the countless ones before, but in another way the contrast was huge....stark.  Today my heart was pounding a little bit harder and my pulse was racing a little faster. Today I was going to find out the result of a pelvic ultrasound that was performed to check on a noticeable lump to the left of my navel. My internist thought it might be ovarian cancer.  Yikes! I'd never thought that I could get ovarian cancer because when I was 19 years old, I had all of one ovary and most of the other one removed due to advanced endometriosis.  They had kept a very small 'particle' of that ovary because of my age, the surgeon had informed me at the time.  The day I had the sonogram done I remember looking up at the dimly lit room while the young sonographer ( if this is really a word) informed me that my little particle of an ovary had actually grown over the past ten years.  I didn't even know that was possible - hence, the source of my complacency and total lack of fear regarding ovarian cancer.  However, I learned at that moment that now I actually have a normal size ovary and the risk could very well exist.  But as usual, she couldn't tell me anything and I would have to wait and talk to my doctor. Gone were the days when the radiologist would come and talk to you, reassuring you that everything was okay. 

 Now,  as you know by now, I'm one that believes in believing for the best but preparing for the 'less than best' outcome.  All you survivors out there know exactly what I'm talking about. The shuffling of feet going up and down the hall, the voices of the nurses handing out prescriptions wasn't helping my already rapid heartbeat. Closing my eyes I decided to practice my deep breathing techniques, shutting out all the sounds and chatter around me.  Breathe in slowly through my nose, hold my breath while counting to 5 and then exhale slowly through the mouth. Again. And Again.  I'd just barely finished my 3rd relaxing breath when the knock came at the door. Now, I have to tell doctor exhuberates kindness and that alone, as we all know, helps you to relax right off the bat. After the usual greetings and how have you been for the past 6 months, he looked me in the eyes and told me  the words that every cancer survivor loves to hear-it's benign-you have nothing to worry about.  A huge smile immediately spread across my face and I couldn't resist giving this bearer of good news a big hug. And, he continued, all your blood work looks great, so my dear - you're good to go for another 6,000 miles...or 6 months, which ever comes first.  I'm sure the laughter could be heard all the way to the front receptionist desk.  Relief swept over me like a warm ocean wave.

 But I'd come prepared.  Ready to be strong. Ready to fight. Ready to hear whatever came out of his mouth. The day before my visit,  I had gone to lunch with a friend of  mine who has gone through her second bout with ovarian cancer. She was in effect preparing me for the other words I might hear. The other possible outcome.  I was ready to fight whatever battle might be waiting up ahead for me.  But I knew that no matter what, I'd  pick myself up, dust myself off and once again turn it all over to the Lord.  All the worries, all the fears and yes, all the healing. Forever hopeful, yet forever prepared. Those words have become my motto, my way of life for the past 26 years.

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