Monday, September 27, 2010

Scarier than Halloween

It has been weeks since I have written a blog. Time seems to have suspended for me the last few weeks as I now wait in limbo for test results. A polyp from a recent colonoscopy tested positive for B-cell lymphoma, though as of this writing, doctors are not sure which type or what stage. So it's been a blur of large, scary tests and waiting for each result and a concrete diagnosis and treatment plan.

So far, it seems the primary lesion was caught with that colonoscopy. A CT scan, PET scan and a whole lotta blood tests have been performed and all have come back "clean"/normal. Today I underwent a bone marrow exam, which was (I have to say) one of my bravest moments ever. The doc had to draw it from my sternum. I feel tonight as if there is a big weight on my chest pressing down. Not exactly hurting, just a lot of pressure. It was so weird to be able to both feel and see the oncologist literally screwing in the needle. No tears though - I'm rather proud of that. Won't get those results for another week.

This whole business of a cancer diagnosis is frightening. The first news that a tiny polyp the size of a grain of rice contained lymphoma cells was probably the worst of it emotionally. I mean, I really thought it would literally never happen to ME. How naive could I have been? It can strike anyone - why NOT me? My gastroenterologist must be one of the most compassionate people in medicine. He put me at ease (as much as could be done in the moment) and set me on the new track of testing to see where else this stuff may be lurking. A few trips now to the hospital for CT and PET scans, as well as a few visits with the oncologist later and I'm no closer to having anyone figure out how that lesion could have gotten there or what exactly it was. So today the bone marrow draw was the last of the big tests. I'm wearing the bandage like a war wound and to remind me that I CAN be brave if I HAVE to.

The things that go through one's brain though after a diagnosis of cancer are varied and awful. I waffle between despair and optimism (as each GOOD test result comes in) but feel like the shoe is gonna drop here any time now. Even if it doesn't - I know that I forever will be thinking about how in the world my body could have made those cells and when it will make them again. Is this how I will die some day?

It's made me think of all those things I have wanted to do and put off. A good friend of ours died about 13 years ago - a very jovial fellow that had end-stage liver cancer and never knew it. He died weeks after his diagnosis at the age of about 35. No kids - he and the wife kept putting it off for "a better time." I often think of her now without Brian and with no children either. The last weeks I have thought of them alot in terms of what may be left undone in my own life. Because how much time do any of us have, really? If I had to be gone in five years, what would I like to have accomplished and done with my time? Lymphoma puts all things into perspective.

I'm going to work on a list, but I don't want to call it a "bucket list," as many do with such things as these. I guess I'll call it "My Plan." Because I think it will be important for me to focus positive and creative energy into my daily life, I have to have goals again and some purpose. My purpose now is to live, first of all. Not to wait, pine away, complain or moan, or (God-forbid) be sorry for myself, but to get up and do things for myself that are physically, spiritually and emotionally satisfying. For too long I have waited (I think) for others' permission to live my life how I want to live it. I think I'm done with all of that. I am going to have a plan - and that plan is NOT going to include lymphoma worries. Maybe I will have to fit in my plan around medical tests or treatment, but it doesn't mean that is all I have to think about or do. And it's not going to be spent just cleaning up after others, organizing others or picking up after other's emotional, spiritual, medical, financial and physically messes. I think I've done my time in this regard.

I am not going to let this diagnosis define me. Yes, I am now officially a "cancer patient" but it's not ALL I am or will be.