Not Poetry Friday

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter c and the number 5.

Another month, another doctor appointment.  In 2008, I started measuring life by the intervals between appointments.   What began as a chaotic barrage of tests and second opinions settled into regularly scheduled appointments.  Every couple of weeks stretched into every few weeks; slowly into months.  This week brought my scheduled six month checkup with my medical oncologist, the woman who coordinated all my treatment.

When I first knew I had cancer, I read Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer.  In retrospect, it wasn’t the deepest well I could have visited, but I was in crisis and it made me smile.  She cautions against giving too much credence to cancer, in fact she advises to never spell it with a capital c.  That was the inspiration for my first blog title, katie’s little c.  What first captivated me as inspirational became a major and meaningful challenge.

Faced with my mortality, how do I go on living? Without diligence, cancer becomes a cancer, edging out all the healthy parts of your life and relationships as Susan Gubar recently in Living With Cancer: Is it Back?  “Perhaps, as Samuel Johnson intuited, all diseases bring egotism in their wake. For people in distress find it hard to think of anything else.”

I’ve seen it play out in my life and the lives of others.  When every ache and pain is a possible existential risk, it’s flat out hard to maintain perspective.  You can get stuck there.

I don’t want to be stuck there.  Every day, I have to make a choice about how much power I will give cancer over my life.

At my appointment this week  blood was drawn, my chest was examined, heart and lungs were heard, nodes and organs palpated.  I officially graduated to the once per year plan. That’s as untethered as my doctors and I will ever get, because while the chances of it coming back are small, tiny she said, they are not zero.  Given how unlikely my cancer was in the first place, I don’t argue. 

There’s another c-word we don’t use “cured.”  Cancer can never be fully banished from the castle and uncertainly lurks around dark corners.

The day after my checkup.  My phone rang at work.  My office is in a valley with poor cell phone reception so I couldn’t answer it, but saw it was my oncologist’s office.  

What if my blood tests turned up something?  

I spent the next minute or so following the prompts on my cell phone’s voice mail system and planning my few remaining days.  

Jenny from the doctor’s office was calling to let me know the blood work was fine.  Still, my heart pounded for hours.

Every day I decide how to not give cancer more than is and has been necessary.  I’ve accepted that it’s a lesson that I will learn and relearn. To balance between anxiety and awareness.  Fear and gratitude.  Vigilance and  paranoia. Recrimination and refocus.

Between what if and what is.

8 thoughts on “Not Poetry Friday”

  1. Excellent post, Katie. I also try to balance life so cancer doesn’t dominate it. However, some days are just really scary — like waiting for blood lab report results and seeing my medical oncologist. I’m glad that your exam and bloodwork went well.

  2. Wow, looks like we got 2 survivors in here. Good to see and hear that.

    My girlfriend’s son died after a year-long battle with a ULTRA-RARE form of cancer last week and is going to the funeral today. A few years ago her mom died of it after fighting it for a few years. It definitely runs in her family (one of her sisters so far is the only survivor of breast cancer I believe) and is a bitch of a disease. What I don’t get and what bothers me is how they spend more time with the same ol’ “solutions” instead of trying something new. It’s almost as if they want to keep it around just to make more money. There’s more profit in the disease than the cure right?

    Yet another reason why I’m studying and practicing shamanism and have for quite some time, modern medicine is a complete joke.

      1. VERY. She’s been taking it pretty hard too, harder than when her mom died. At least with her everybody saw it coming, her son was a COMPLETE surprise, esp. since he was so healthy, always active doing stuff like dirt biking, kayaking/white water rafting and such. To see the disease break him down so quickly was a shock to everyone. How can you prepare yourself for something like that?

        1. You can’t. I’ve said many times that I’m glad it happened to me rather than to one of my kids. I just don’t know how you come back from that. I wish her all the strength for her journey back. You too.

        2. Thank you. Reading those words do mean alot, trust me.

          NOW is the time for some REAL progress, and by that I don’t mean poisoning people with radiation like that chemo shit. That stuff is just drastic. Why doctors don’t stress taking Vitamin C more to cancer patients is beyond me but then again they aren’t taught anything about nutrition in medical school believe it or not. 1nce again they’re in the business to kill, not heal.

  3. Good, good post. Every day it really is a choice as to how much we’ll give cancer. I need to remind myself with each dip into panic – cancer is stealing this time away. Congrats on getting to that once-a-year mark. That is very good news!!

    Your cookie monster picture is reminding me of a song I used to hear on Sesame Street (decades ago) “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough to eat.” And now, I’m going to go and find myself a cookie. ~Catherine

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