As we settled into bed on Wednesday night, I pulled out my trusty pink notebook that has been my constant companion since last March. "Okay, time to put our list together", I said to Mike. Thursday morning I had an appointment with my oncologist and per our usual ritual in the Malley house, we generated our list of questions and concerns for Dr. F the night before.
"Make sure to tell Dr. F that my last surgery was May 4th...tell him I just saw Dr. M on Monday and he gave me the green light to exercise my arms...I am back to work and it's going well...still bruising a lot, so how does blood work look?" And before Mike drifted off to sleep, he reminded me for about the 100th time, "please make sure to talk to Dr. F about your back." Ah yes, my back. The one thing that has been a trouble maker from the start. This is the area we have worried about from Day #1 when a questionable little spot appeared on those first diagnostic tests.
I was heading into this appointment on my own this time so Mike made me promise that I would be honest with Dr. F about my increased back pain and the symptoms I have been having lately. So, I shared with Dr. F that I feel about 80 years old when I wake up in the morning. That my entire back feels achy and so incredibly stiff. I told him that I experience a dull achy pain throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine at the end of most days. And, I shared with him the terrifying and excruciating pain I experienced on Tuesday when I had severe muscle spasms throughout my paraspinal muscles while sitting at my desk at work. I haven't experienced spasms like that since last fall and it is just about the most painful thing I have ever felt.
BUT, I also explained to Dr. F that I have been doing a lot more lately. I have been at the gym more, I have been busy with lots of photo sessions that require me to get in all sorts of goofy positions while photographing children. I told him that I have also been spending hours and hours on end at my desk editing my photographs and learning how to run a business.
I told Dr. F that although my family has often suggested I get an MRI done, I don't have any interest in having my scans completed any earlier than originally scheduled. I explained that I have been looking forward to feeling "normal" and enjoying this summer without worrying about test results. Unfortunately, Dr. F really didn't see eye to eye with me on my whole "ignorance is bliss" theory. He decided to move my scans up so we can see what's going on. Logically, I am thankful that he is so attentive and proactive, but right now I am just feeling sad, scared, and anxious.
Just when life was starting to feel more normal again, now I have to worry about this. It is so difficult to live this way - to feel all sorts of aches and pains and always have to wonder, is the disease causing this pain? Has my medication stopped working? Does this mean the cancer is spreading? It leads you down a dark and awful path to "Worryville." There is not a doubt in my mind that the psychological and emotional aspects of living with cancer far outweigh the physical ones. The roller coaster of emotions is just relentless and the hardest part is knowing that I will never be able to get off this awful ride.
The timing seems like it couldn't be worse. My closest friend with metastatic BC just found out a few days ago that she has had a serious progression of her disease, after being stable with no evidence of disease for the past year. She has been scanned every three months and it's absolutely terrifying to me to think that so much can change in such a short period of time. It has been so hard to think of what she is going through and watch her grieve this news, and experience all of those emotions that we both felt when we were first diagnosed...fear, worry, doubt, doom, disbelief. I can't help but put myself in her shoes and wonder if I will have a similar fate.
Will we have to start a new treatment plan? Will I have to have chemo again? Will my quality of life be as good if I am on a new medication with different side effects. I try so hard not to worry, but it is nearly impossible to not have these thoughts race through your mind. I wasn't prepared for this. I thought I would have until the end of August to have my "scanxiety" kick in and all of a sudden, it's upon me.
I couldn't stop crying last night and feeling overwhelmed and scared. Today, I am still feeling a little down but I am trying to be very hopeful and optimistic that everything is fine, but all the "what if's" are terrifying nonetheless.
I am begging for your prayers. Prayers that my spine is just as healthy (if not healthier!) than it was when I was scanned in February. Prayers that my current medication is still working and I can maintain my good quality of life. Prayers that the aches and pains subside in my back and that it is simply a result of increased activity. And especially, prayers to help me remember that every day is a blessing - that I am able to remain grateful - and that I am not consumed by fear and doubt. Thank you so much!
I will be having my full body bone scan and spine MRI on July 2, followed by a chest/abdomen/pelvis CT on July 6. I will have to wait until July 12 to see Dr. F for my results since he is only at my clinic on Thursday's. I will definitely keep you all posted.
ps - please keep my stepdad, Doug and his siblings in your prayers as well. Doug lost his sweet and thoughtful dad last night, after leading a wonderful life for 95 years. I know this will be an extra difficult Father's Day for them this year. Thank you for being a great father figure, Doug. Happy Father's Day to you!
And Happy Father's Day to my wonderful father in-law, Mike. We are so grateful you are feeling better. Love you!
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