Monday, November 18, 2013

The Black Hole

Yesterday I slipped into a black hole.  And it happened so gradually that I wasn’t even aware of what was going on until I was at the bottom.

I’ve been having these aches and pains:  my ribs, my collarbone, my hip, my knee (an after-effect from radiation?  too much running?).  Then, too, Sunday morning I was having  strange, tinny hot flashes that made me want to lie down and rest.

 I did lie down after church while my family fixed lunch.  And while resting, I decided to Google “blogs about breast cancer.” I came across one by Lisa Bonchek Adams, who is confronting breast cancer for the second time; this time it has metastasized and is stage IV. 

When I got up to eat lunch, all I could think about was Lisa’s story.  When I went back to rest again, I read more of her blog posts.  It was pretty deep stuff; I gave myself a time limit for reading so I wouldn’t go down a dark path all afternoon.

Then I decided to be brave and Google “rib pain after radiation.”  I was encouraged to read that many, many others have also experienced this.  But I still need to talk to my radiation oncologist about my own symptoms, and I’m concerned about what she’ll say.

Then, I decided to be even braver and Google “triple-negative breast cancer.”  This is my tumor’s status.  Since the cancer was not being fed by any of the female hormones, it cannot be targeted with hormone treatments.  Surgery, chemo, radiation and natural remedies are the only medical defense we have against recurrence.

After taking in all this info, my world seemed pretty dark. I felt scared, alone, and drowning in “what ifs.”  Lying there reading in bed wasn’t helping.  I needed to do something different.

Thankfully, I have a husband who likes to go on walks with me.  As we headed out into the dusky fall air, I began to unravel my emotions.  And I figured it out:  it’s the waiting.

When I was going through chemo and radiation, I knew we were doing something to fight the cancer.  I found security in my regular doctor’s appointments.  There were very real health issues to deal with, and we took it a day at a time (or tried to!).

When that was over, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was ready to get on with life as usual.  But will it ever be normal again?

I still have regular doctor’s appointments to look forward to, although they’re more spaced out.  And I’m finding that they tend to make me more nervous.

For instance, right now I’m waiting for the results of my recent pap smear.  Several years ago, I had an atypical one; and though they’ve all been clear since then, I’ll breathe a bit easier after I hear that this one is clear, too.

And tomorrow I’ll be having a follow-up appointment with my radiation oncologist.  I’m looking forward to chatting with her, and I’ll mention my aches and pains.  I’m hoping she’ll give me the all-clear.  But what if she orders a bone scan?  Then I’ll be waiting again.

I’m comforted, though, by the knowledge that these emotions are perfectly normal.  According to what I’ve heard from many other cancer survivors, I’m right where I ought to be on this journey beyond cancer.  I’m doing what I can to be an advocate for my own health.  I’m trying not to worry.  I’m trying to focus on facts, not fears.  I’m reminding myself of Who’s in control.  And I'm finding that talking about it helps, too.


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  2. Love you Mama! Can't wait to be home and give you a hug.

  3. Note to self: Don't ever Google your own medical conditions ;) Love you, Anne. -Suzanne R