This coming Wednesday I’m going to see my wonderful oncologist, otherwise known as The White Russian, for my 6 month check up. I’m pretty sure I know how it will pan out. I’ll sit in the waiting room happily reading until the nurse calls my name. She and I will walk back to the nurse’s station while she blames me for the weight she’s gained because I happened to tell her about Hope’s Cookies and now she can’t ever drive by there without stopping. Then, just to be spiteful I’m sure, she’ll make ME stand on the scale (at which time I’ll tell her again that I’ll be a good 30 pounds less the next time she sees me) and drain a couple vials of blood from my arm.
Once I get to the examination room I’ll be depressed about the weight she just recorded for all of eternity and The White Russian will walk in, disturbing my lamentations, and say how great it is to see a healthy person. Then I’ll feel bad about my whining when I would take every single ounce and then some if it meant not having cancer anymore.
He will ask how my summer was and what my family did. I’ll tell him we drove to Arkansas for a week to visit friends and family and how we didn’t get to see half the people we would have liked to. Then I’ll tell him how I flew to Seattle the following week to spend some time in a beach house with four other women. We’ll also talk about the tight, tingling, almost painful pressure my left arm feels whenever I fly or even ride in the car for any length of time without any support and he’ll look for signs of lymphedema. Thankfully he won’t find any unusual swelling and I’ll be told to keep wearing the compression sleeve when I fly and hopefully we’ll dodge this particular bullet.
After that we’ll discuss the stiffness in my joints and other bodily aches and we’ll decide that since it’s not debilitating pain I’ll just remain on the Arimidex for another 15 months. This is when I’ll realize I’m only little more than a year out from my 5-year goal and that will make me happy.
Most likely The White Russian will order a bone density scan because the combination of no ovaries and the Arimidex make for early onset osteoporosis. He’ll also probably decide I should have a colonoscopy because I haven’t had one yet and colon cancer is somehow closely related to breast cancer. Not only that, but there is a history of colon cancer in my family.
We will also look at my blood work which will no doubt look good except for my white count and other immune system related values. They might be within normal limits, but I can tell you right now they’re going to be low. How do I know this? Well for one thing they’re always on the low side of normal. In the nearly four years I’ve been finished with chemo they have never gotten very far above the line. But I’ve also managed to wear myself down which always results in a thick and swollen tongue, my own personal telltale sign of a low WBC. When it’s really bad, like it was after my trip to Seattle, minor cuts and blisters won’t heal and I’ll get a funky feeling that I just can’t describe so I’m not even going to try.
Thrown in between all this clinical stuff he’ll ask about my kids. When I tell him Taylor is now a senior in high school he’ll ask about his desired major and college. He’ll also ask how Katie likes high school and what do I think about being on this end of parenting. The White Russian will tell me a little about his family and their summer and before I know it my visit will be over.
I’ll then get to Peggy’s desk and we’ll chat for a moment and schedule my next appointment for sometime around March or so. And while I’m so happy I don’t have to make weekly or even monthly visits to the oncologist anymore, I’ll be just the teensiest bit sad that I don’t get to see these people for another six months. But then I’ll stop at Starbuck’s on my way home for a Venti White Chocolate Mocha with whip (Weight Watcher’s points don’t count on oncology days) and all will be right with the world.
I do wish I hadn’t gained all this weight (which I blame all on the various treatments I’ve been through since diagnosis) and I would love it if my body would be more cooperative and less stiff and achy. I’m very conscious about the possibility of lymphedema and I’m a little angry about the whole osteoporosis thing. The thing that bothers me the most right now is the white counts and the swollen tongue. How weird is that? It’s always swollen, but it gets worse when I’m feeling bad or overly tired and it gets in the way when I’m trying to talk and I’m always biting the sides with my sharp carnivorous molars.
Nobody ever tells you about all the stuff you have to deal with AFTER treatment, even if you don’t have any more cancer. But I’ll take all of it just to get to my 5-year goal and hear those magic words, “No Evidence of Disease”. And as I’m driving home I’ll start relaxing, even though I didn’t realize just how tense I was. I always expect a good report, but somewhere in the far reaches of my mind I suppose I fear the worst.
Finally, I’ll start thinking about those I know who don’t get to hear those words that I’m sure to. The women who are dealing with a recurrence or a metastasis, those who seem to be losing their fight, and especially those we’ve had to say goodbye to. My joy at another good report will be dimmed by the sadness for those who are not as fortunate and I’ll be reminded just how horrific cancer is.
And in six months I’ll do it all again.
Cross-posted at Mothers With Cancer