Monday, July 30, 2007

Technology tells no lies

Last week I went in for a pelvic MRI. I had a cyst in my one remaining ovary and they had done a CT scan, an ultrasound and finally an MRI to make sure that sucker was benign. The verdict was that I have several small follicular cysts - normal cysts involved in the ovulation process. Good news!

And for more good news... while I was in the MRI tube they did an abdominal scan to make sure everything looked okey-dokey. I am the proud owner of a healthy liver, pancreas, kidneys and I have no enlarged lymphnodes. Woo Hoo! I ran around the house screaming "Yay!" for about five minutes after I heard the news.

Hopefully this will calm my nerves a bit and help the achingly slow realization that I am cancer-free.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"

For your next sensitivity training seminar: How *not* to respond when someone tells you they have cancer.

Me: I just finished chemo for cancer.
Well-Intentioned Man on Phone (W.I.M.P.): Oh, I'm so sorry. My dad died of cancer.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm only 34, so I'm hoping that doesn't happen.
W.I.M.P.: Wow! You're young!
Me: Yes, I know.
W.I.M.P. : I hope you'll be okay.
Me: Thanks.

In case any of you out there are unaware, I already know that people die of cancer. In fact, I plugged in my details to an algorithm on the Internet and I know that I have a 17% chance of dying of cancer in the next five years. So, next time you run into someone who tells you of their diagnosis, perhaps your father's death is not the most comforting thing you could mention.

Just a suggestion, of course. ;-)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ESP of Purpose

Yesterday I got an email from the MLIS graduate program I had been attending last fall when I was diagnosed. It's enrollment time again. Which brings up the question that seems to be a theme with cancer survivors - what do I do now?

There's a bit of expectation that surviving cancer will transform you into a little Dalai Lama or Thoreau or Oprah - someone who sees more clearly than ever their "purpose" in life. Someone who has stared the beast down and now has some sort of strength unknown to mere mortals. And while there is a kernel of truth to this - anything that might have seemed daunting before would probably be a cakewalk now - I'm not sure that I have any better sense of purpose than I did before. I feel a bit like when an elementary school teacher says "not working up to her potential." But my potential for what? Do I need to be a phoenix rising triumphantly from the ashes or can I just step out of the ash pile, shake off my tail feathers and mosey on down the road?

I know all of these "expectations" are internal - this is not a new theme for me. I've always had periods of my life where I feel like what I'm doing is not enough. Although not enough of what, I'm never sure. So, when I start to feel like I'm not successful enough, I ask myself, "But, are you happy? " If the answer is yes, then I feel like I must be in a good place. I think the issue right now is that I'm not happy. I'm sure at some point I'll feel happy and grateful that I didn't die of cancer at 35, but right now, in the midst of lingering side effects and uncertainty of reoccurence I mostly feel bitter.

I know that the best thing you can do with any emotion is just let it take it's course. I don't place value judgments on "good" or "bad" emotions - they are all part of all of us. So I'll be bitter for as long as I need to. But you may want to stay a good 2 meters away until further notice. Or maybe dive right in and give me a hug. I dunno.