Twas two days before Christmas and all through the oncology office, only a few patients were stirring, and I was one of them. After fighting holiday traffic, or at least Louisville’s version of it, I welcomed the unexpected peace and quiet found in the waiting room this afternoon. While many people were putting the finishing touches on their holiday plans, I was preparing to take my first tentative steps down the road to recovery from breast cancer.
I still feel like an impostor when I am in the presence of the other patients, and I fight this urge to apologize to them for being there. I feel a strange mixture of guilt and gratitude. My heart goes out to those people who appear to be in the midst of an intense battle, and at the same time, I am grateful that my prognosis is promising. It is hard to feel good, though, when two of my dear friends continue to fight for their lives against cancer, and when I look around the waiting room and see others who are suffering. Then, there is me, a party crasher in an awful club.
After a quick visit to the lab, I found myself sitting with my oncologist (that still sounds so strange, my oncologist) engaged in a conversation spoken in a new language that I am still learning to speak and comprehend. Oncotype score. Stage. Grade. Genetic counseling. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Tamoxifen. And on and on it goes. Luckily, my oncologist is fluent in this strange new language, and she helps me decipher it and understand it.
Today, she helped me to put the pieces of my treatment puzzle together and explained the method behind her medical madness. Based on my stage, grade, and low oncotype score, I learned that chemotherapy would not be part of my treatment regime, despite initially being told that it would be required. Again, I felt conflicted about this news, as I was happy to hear that I would not be subjected to the rigors of chemotherapy, yet I felt sad and guilty that my friends and others did not receive the same news when they were diagnosed. I also felt a bit of anxiety, as the inevitable what ifs bubbled to the surface of my mind. What if the cancer returns because I wasn’t aggressive enough? What if my oncologist is wrong? What if I don’t respond to the treatment outlined for me? What if, what if, what if . . .
As I allowed this first bit of information to sink in, I recalled the research I have done about treatment options and came to the conclusion that not having chemotherapy is the right decision for my particular case. What is the proper protocol for me is radiation and five years of Tamoxifen. Again, a flood of mixed emotions. Grateful that I appear to have gotten off relatively easily and unscathed in my fight against cancer, yet so immensely sorry that not everyone has it this easy. I hate being in this club, and I hate it even more that my friends and strangers alike belong to this club. Membership does not have its privileges.
For dessert tonight, I swallowed my first Tamoxifen pill, in what will be my new regime for the next five years. It is one very small step toward the club’s exit door, but it is a step in the right direction. It is my Christmas wish that everyone in this club gets out of here soon and, more importantly, alive and well.
That’s another story. . .
Categories: That's Another Story