Friday, August 2, 2013


The past couple of months have been pleasant.  Sure, the weather is by and large Washington-horrid, with temperatures in the high 90s and the humidity nearing solid level. You don’t hike, you swim through the vegetation. The poison ivy this year is particularly nasty, with vines thick as a wrist winding around trees, and the three-leaf clusters nasty underfoot. Deer have eaten the flowerbed in my back yard down to a nub, but I can’t get angry. The fish in my small pond seem happy, almost $500 spent at the vet’s showed my cat is healthy, and the mourning doves nesting in my dogwood haven’t filed for divorce.

People are still killing each other all over the world; political figures who should know better, don’t, as always; and me, I haven’t seen a doctor in more than two months and feel all the better for it.  

This being said, I don’t really dare hope that my recurrent cancer has gone for good. I’ve been told twice that I am cancer-free, and three times that I’m not. So this nine-week period has been a welcome hiatus, but now the fear is just starting to creep back.

Here’s the thing: my cancer, surprisingly, hasn’t hurt, not physically, anyway. The attendant pain has been due to the probing, cutting, burning, and post-surgical treatments; it’s been due to the chemo and the effect of having poisons injected into one’s system-- sheep tuberculosis, to be exact, which is so beyond-the-pall weird that I can barely cope with it. Sheep tuberculosis… I wouldn’t be surprised if I woke up one morning and started bleating.

The next tests are in three weeks. The last time I was scoped, some six months ago, the surgeon was looking at the screen which displayed the inside of my bladder and said, Uh oh. This is not a sound you want to hear from anyone in the medical profession.  I think I said, Uh oh what? But I knew. He pointed out several small areas that looked as if mold had taken hold, and a larger growth that was undoubtedly a tumor. Uh ho.

All in all, there have been five operations so far. The recuperation periods grow longer each time, which worries me. I’m convinced being anesthetized more than a half-dozen times in three years can’t be good for me either, all the while being grateful not to have undergone these procedures wide awake.

I find myself worrying uselessly. Am I more tired than normal? Am I sleeping enough, or too much? What’s that twinge in my lower abdomen? Why are my legs sore? And that slight raspiness in my throat? I can see myself slipping into hypochondria or some other schizoaffective disorder.
One positive thing: I’ve stopped looking up symptoms on the internet. I did that one day some months ago and among the possible reasons for feeling as I did was pregnancy. I’m realizing more and more that, though some sites are informative and well-researched, a lot more are not. And the fact is, each incidence of a disease, be it cancer or something else, will vary greatly from person to person. I have heard of people surviving pancreatic cancer and dying of melanoma. Odds vary greatly according to past health, age, gender, and even outlook.

So I’m grateful for the doctor-free time, for not sitting in waiting rooms, for not lying in a hospital bed waiting for the nth person to come and explain why the surgeon did not come and see me after the operation, and yes, I’ll be told of the results in a week or so.

It’s hard won gratitude, to be sure, but the alternative isn’t worth considering.  

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