In my early teens, there was a satirical BBC show, staring David Frost called That Was The Week That Was- or TW3 as we highly sophisticated 12 year olds called it!
SO, here is my story of TW3:
Sunday – Church, then home. Made progress on the updates to The Can Do Chronicles revisions and work plan… I loved the fact that it was NOT cold out! Had dinner guests… felt like “predictable” was really starting to happen.
Monday – I was beginning to believe that work and I were made to be together and get along. Got several clients’ projects moved to the next level. Felt productive. Healthy! Just a bit more moxey building back after the unsettledness of the last four months… Hey, world, look out!
Tuesday – SNOW – more silly, stupid SNOW! Sigh! Worked away on my clients’ projects and submitted a proposal. Fiddled more with Can Do plans – it’s beginning to take some shape and have some books from library that are timely and helpful. A bit draggy after dinner, and my cough returned, but I had enough energy to watch new NCIS and NCIS LA before dozing off.
Wednesday – COLD & windy! Know if I can get through this stretch of cold weather, the rest is smooth sailing. My low body temp makes it really hard to get warm again when I get cold. Mid-day, I got cabin fever and went to the library, in spite of the cold, then made plans for a project with a new old client. It felt good to be back working together. Had a delightful evening with my neighbor ladies at our book club. Life is good!
Thursday – I have routine doctor’s appointment, so get up (very) early to head into Georgetown before traffic. There’s blood on my towel. From my left breast, which also hurts. Actively bleeding, not just residual. It started to hurt yesterday, but I thought I had slept wrong. I tell Ned, go into Georgetown and hang out in Starbucks in the student center until time for appointment at 9.
There is a group of college students from Arkansas finalizing plans for embassy and Hill visits… youth! They are sponges and help distract me from the “bad” thoughts, like how having CLL increases my chances for a secondary cancer; and, how having chemo does more of the same. I am a never-been-pregnant almost 62 year old woman with these symptoms. The Mayo Clinic, NIH and Johns Hopkins websites all agree: this is serious so see your doctor ASAP.
I have an awesome physician! So, that this horrifying symptom occurred the morning that I was already scheduled as a follow up to the endless cold/bronchitis was a GOD SEND! When I was not tallying up all the problems that breast cancer would bring into my life, I was grateful for that gift. I was her first patient and told her, in the same sentence that I said hi, about the bleeding boobie! It made it more real and much more frightening. She went out and called the head of mammography and got me right in! Membership in the Cancer R Us Club has some perks!
I got lost in the silly hospital building where the Lower Level does not go through from one building to the next – where you have to go up to go down. I was distracted. I kept thinking about my planned vacation in May with my cousin, Joan, to wine country and San Francisco. And my work plans – and my long list of grant proposals that are due in the next weeks. And my hair. And Ned’s new job and how this would mess that up. I even thought about the fact that my new workout shoes came with bright pink laces in addition to the bright green ones.
Please note that I never thought about dying. Most cancer these days is not about dying. It’s about the total disruption to life and any sense of predictability that ever existed. Finally, I got there. The Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Health Center at the Lombardi Cancer Center.
I endured the regular mammogram and then a special one on the tips on the left side because of the bleeding coming from my nipple. (Yes, it is very weird for me to be writing these words for the public! My mother is spinning round and round underground!) Linda, my tech, was awesome… apologizing ahead of time for how much it was going to hurt! She was right – the pain was excruciatingly beyond belief. I kept peeking at the images on the screen, not sure what I was seeing, or even looking for.
Then I went back to the waiting area and tried to read a People Magazine, the ultimate brain candy. I have no idea what I read. I kept thinking about the pink shoe laces…and my friends Laurie, Vicki, Judy and Sandy. And, my friend Jennie who left us this Monday.
Linda came to get me again and took me to the room where they were going to do an ultrasound. My soul was totally still and. as I waited for the doctor, tears were rolling from my eyes. To my total surprise, when the doc came in he told me my mammogram was clean! I almost could not hear or believe him. But, what about the blood on the stupid hospital gown?
He started the ultrasound… he said that the mammogram had emptied the ducts and the pictures he was getting were clear! It was excellent news…
I still had pain (the mammogram notwithstanding) and was bleeding. If it’s not cancer, and I am not going to lose my vacation and my hair, what is it?
I will learn more next Wednesday when, after I see Dr. Cheson, my “regular” oncologist, I will stick around the Lombardi Cancer Center to see a breast surgeon for a consult. Most likely, it is a ductile papilloma – basically an infected duct gland. But with that, I will keep my hair and be able to go on vacation! How selfish that sounds; but how real that is!
When I got home yesterday, I read my novel and napped. My doc called to reconfirm the good news and I thanked her for being there for me. Yesterday and today have both been rough emotionally. I have struggled keeping the BIG BLACK DOG of depression at a distance and with it the feeling that I am too tired to keep trying. Too tired to CAN DO. The roller coaster of the last months and years of being sick, getting treatment, moving, Ned’s jobs being eliminated, etc., etc., etc., has truly warn parts of me out.
Today, the pain has subsided and so has the blood. I had to get back in the old work saddle and get things done. I kept on keeping on. But.it.was.not.easy. At.all.
Tonight, it is getting easier. My feelings yesterday of “will this ever stop?” are gone. The BLACK DOG is back on the outside of my psyche, and CAN DO is back inside of it. Ned brought me three long stemmed red roses to celebrate the good parts. My ability to concentrate is back and my resolve to update the book and get it published in hard copy is regaining the momentum that it – and just about everything else – lost yesterday morning.
My making the decision to write – and publish – this blog has been therapeutic. It is a more personal and difficult part of the story to tell. But, I made the decision when I started chemo to make my story a shared story, so I tell it.
And, as I finish this writing tonight, the words to a special song from my youth ministry days play in my mind: We have come to share our story; We have come to break the bread; We have come to know the rising from the dead. I am grateful that I am here and that my life is shared and renewed in unpredictable ways every single day. Honest, really, I am!
As this week comes to an end, I want to remember and honor Jennie who was buried today and the extraordinary life she led – with such courage, finesse and moxie! And to my friend Vicki who is fighting so hard and so bravely today, and my friends Laurie, Judy and Sandy who are survivors in the truest sense: thank you for being there in my thoughts with me yesterday, helping me stay strong!