Originally posted at Blogger in March 2012 – since the originally posting of this we’ve lost John, too many lost.
Due to my diagnosis of cancer 7 1/2 years ago my Ears, Nose and Throat Doctor requests with hardened determination to see me once a year. The first year I saw him every month, that’s how serious the return of my cancer could be. The second month I saw him every 2 months, the third year every 3 months and so on where I have for the last couple years been able to only have to see him once a year. I see my Oncologist once a year to and with these appointments being 6 months apart I am reassured twice a year that I’m still kicking.
The first time I saw my ENT Doctor was August of 2004, where he stuck a huge needle in the side of my neck and sucked out, as my mind remembers it, a thick pale yellowy paste, not just a little, a lot. Somehow I knew that couldn’t be very good, but we made small talk, and he said he’d send it off to be tested. I don’t recall him telling me not to worry. The second time I saw him, I cried. That’s when he told me I had Stage IV metastasis Tonsil cancer. He had pulled that junk out of my lymph node. Actually he told me I had cancer, I asked him what stage it was. I wasn’t very happy with the answer and wondered why I had to ask. There was to be no living in a bubble of everything was going to be alright. It was pretty serious. I don’t recall what day of the week it was, but I know it was the 27th of August. Just 2 days after my Wedding Anniversary and just a month after my youngest son’s 2nd birthday.
It’s been a long haul. Lots of tears and fear. Lots of laughter and giggles. Lots of CT scans, PET scans, down the nose scopes, an MRI when one PET showed something (a bit of a scare, but turned out to be nothing), scrapping of my uterus when something showed on another PET, (I was certain and accepted it was cancer, it wasn’t), surgery to remove the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck, because yet another PET showed something and with my history of metastasis cancer to the lymph nodes on the other side they had to be removed. I wasn’t afraid. I have a lot of trust in my Doctor. He’s a good man. It too turned out to be no cancer. I’ll take the large scar on my neck. I believe it was a small price to pay, compared to all the chemo and radiation treatments I went through before.
I believe most people who have been diagnosed with cancer will tell you no matter how far out you get from your original diagnosis you never quit asking the question when is it coming back. At this stage I can get through several days without thinking too much about it, but as I approach the upcoming appointments between the ENT and the Oncologist the thought reaches in and takes hold. I feel a little pain, is it the cancer? I cough a little more, is it the cancer? I just can’t help it, I don’t even have to try, it just pops in. It wasn’t any different this time leading up to this appointment. For starters it had been rescheduled twice. That never makes me happy. Today I arrived almost an hour early and sat in the noisy waiting area. Someone’s tiny baby was very sad, or angry, or hungry or wet or in pain. I was called in late after waiting too long, but I was smart enough to bring some light reading, The Hunger Games, kept my brain occupied with ummmm, yeah, death. Good call I’d say.
The Tech took me into my Doc’s office. I’ve only been in this room once before. He has lots of cards tacked to the wall from his patients. There’s one there in the upper right from me, Keith and Aden. It says thanks for saving my life. The Tech asked me the usual questions and sprayed the 2 squirts each of the decongestants and whatever that other stuff is that numbs the passage way down the nose and to the throat. I had just enough time after she left to snap a picture of the scope the Doctor uses on me. I’m not real fond of that piece of equipment as far as how it feels going down or up my nose, cause it’s never really numb, but I do know it’s necessary for Doc to see if the cancer’s back. He finally comes in, he always smiles now since that day he saw me cry the first time, shakes my hand, says, “how are you Jerri?” he’s got just a hint of an accent. After all these year’s I’ve never asked him his nationality. It’s never really mattered. He never wastes any time. His hands go automatically to my throat as he gently sees if he can feel any lumps. I remember for many visits he used to wear a contraption on his head to reflect the light. He always looked a little silly. I’m glad he doesn’t wear it anymore. This time he checks my ears and I’m glad I used a Q tip in each ear this morning. Then he has me open my mouth and say ahhhh. I never, ever say it as loud as he wants so he tells me BIG ahhhh, I oblige and feel stupid each and every time. Then it’s time for the scope down or up my nose to my throat. He says, “breath through your nose, deep breath, say E, okay other side, breath through your nose, deep breath, say E, louder, okay, done”. Once again his hands go to my throat to recheck. He steps away to wash his hands and then turns to me and says, “how long have we been seeing each other, 7 years?’ I say, “yes 7 1/2”. “Well” he says, and these next words, as a cancer Survivor, as the Warrior that I have become, make me cry. I even tell him, “I think I’m going to cry”. These words are the closest I can ever come to thinking I stand half a chance against cancer. He says, “At this point, I don’t think you need any more CT scans or PET scans. You are 7 years out. 99% of the cancer that comes back comes back in the first 5 years”. I cried, thought I could stop, started again. He asked me if I was okay. I said, yes, but I was thinking of Mom and not being able to tell her of my glimmer of Hope, and I cried again. I told him they were tears of Joy. They were, but sadness too. I’ll take that 1% chance with Doctor number 1, the Ears, Nose and Throat Doctor and I’ll patiently wait to see if Doctor number 2, my Oncologist agrees, no more PET scans, cause I just might be okay.
It is hard to hold on to that glimmer of HOPE. I’ve lost so many, Grandpa, Uncle Lloyd, Aunt Marlene, Kim, Sandy, Mom, so many others gone, Bonnie and Bill, my classmates gone right after Mom. So many others still fighting still waiting to hear this glimmer of Hope, Marty, Diane, John, Becky, Bruce, Sophie……..
It is such a hard, difficult feeling to have a glimmer……but I’m going to try.
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