A little more than three months after my final radiation treatment, it was finally time this week to head back to New York for a CT scan, blood work, and an appointment with my favorite oncologist. The punchline: Everything looked good. I’m off the hook until my next checkup, sometime in April.
Since my last post in early December I have been pretty MIA. I started to write about how I was really busy with work and how I went on vacation and how I had a zillion other things going on that precluded me from blogging, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. The truth is that I was scared. I was absolutely terrified of getting scanned.
I did a really good job of not psyching myself out throughout my treatments. Perhaps while I was actively attending chemo and radiation treatments I felt like I was doing something to fight the disease. Maybe it was just the weekly doctor visits that were reassuring me. When I was first turned loose at the end of September, free from doctors, treatments, IVs, and linear particle accelerators, I was pretty ecstatic about the prospect of freedom and a return to normalcy. For most of October and November, I was able to pretend that the cancer thing never even happened, but, by December, my confidence in my treatments waned. Every ache or pain was due to a tumor pressing on a nerve. If woke up sweaty because our heat was turned up too high I would panic for days, unable to grasp something that just a year ago would have seemed so obvious; I needed to turn down the heat. My already short attention span became all but nonexistent.
As I counted down the weeks, then days, until my scan I began contingency planning in my head. I considered all of the possibilities for Kai-care, work, grocery shopping, exercise, and entertainment in the event that I had relapsed and would need a stem cell transplant and the associated 100 days of quarantine. Who would I want to be in lockdown in my “clean zone” with me? Who would be willing and able to do it? Does post-stem cell transplant isolation even work that way? I hope I never know.
About two weeks before my scan, we went on vacation, which was a welcome distraction that I will post more about another time. By the time I went back to work again in the new year, I had just three (marginally productive) work days remaining until scan day. Last Friday we headed to New Jersey and my family acted as a huge diversion for me as I waited out those last few days. On Sunday, six of us went skiing and snowboarding up at Hunter Mountain in what was likely the best non-bilzzard ski conditions that I have ever experienced there. That was quite possibly the most effective diversion possible the day before a CT scan.
Finally, Monday rolled around and with it came more worry and more second guessing. Just minutes after I finished my scan, my oncologist’s nurse called my cell phone. When I saw her number come up, a few choice words ran through my head. In summary, I was thinking “Uh, oh, it was that bad?”
She asked if I was still at the hospital. ::My heart pounded.::
I was. Could I go get my blood drawn before I went home? I sure could.
Again, I spent the night contingency planning.
Tuesday morning, as we sat in traffic on the approach to the George Washington Bridge, my phone rang again. Once again it was my oncologist’s office. “Brittany, you are still coming to your appointment today, right?”
Of course, why wouldn’t I be? Why are you checking? “Yes.”
My stomach did flip flops for the next three hours or so until my doctor delivered the good news. There has to be a way to do this without experiencing so much anxiety.
By Tuesday afternoon, Chris, Kai, and I were headed back to Indiana and my doctor visit seemed anti-climatic somehow. Obviously I am elated that I received good results, but, at the same time, it is difficult for me to get my mind around this paradox of being 31 and otherwise healthy with some inherent expectation that I will be around doing my thing for a long time without major medical intervention, but, at the same time, I find myself making preparatory checklists for what I will do if the sky is falling. In talking with others who have gone through this, it sounds like pre-scan anxiety lessens with time, but, for me, at least this first time around, it was pretty profound.
Anyway, I got the all clear this week and I am stoked to be able to confidently plan the next three months of my life.