Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! How are you celebrating this love-filled day? Roses and wine, maybe some chocolates? Sounds very good. Throw in a bubble bath and I’ll be there in ten minutes (with a book to read while the bathroom door is closed and I sink into the suds – no funny business allowed, thank you very much).  As for Zsolt and I, the day was business as usual with a card here and personalized stamp set there. Also, I’m making töltött káposzta for dinner with a Hungarian recipe that I cannot read – handwriting being so subjective – and hoping things go well for a nice romantic dinner. Zsolt is snuggling up to his supervisor at the University, going through his thesis.


Today was busy for various reasons: radiotherapy, career fair, lecture about internet marketing, work of the library, visit from the shipping company, and doctor’s appointment. It was the appointment that really had my attention.  Looking at the day, it appears to be busy, but in reality it is distracting.

Distraction was needed.

Half way through my library shift I left to walk over to the Doctor’s office. Two things were required: One, renew my prescription and Two, get a referral to the breast clinic.

Arriving at the doctor’s I checked myself in and took a seat. At the moment I’m reading this book called “Mennonite in a little black dress” which is, somewhat like this blog, a light encounter with shitty circumstances (and great family stories) – plus, the author is funny. I love funny. So there I was waiting for the doctor, reading my book, and trying not to stare at the children in the reception playing with the table of shapes on windy painted wires. Remember those? There’s a table with different colour blocks – and somehow, as a child, it is fascinating to wind them along the wire. I remember many a doctor’s office and health food stores where that windy wire captivated my imagination.

Lately children bring up weird feelings – I’m not sure whether to like them, resent them, want them, play with them, or just ignore them. Heck, some are adorable (e.g. my friend’s tiny girl with the ever-smiling face; she saw me without any hair and just smiled, so innocently, like I was anyone else and there was nothing wrong with that. Geez, she was cute), actually most kids are adorable. Lately, I haven’t spotted a child who wasn’t totally sweet and charming. But they always remind me that I still haven’t gotten my period. And more so, they remind me of the baby/breast hospital where I was first diagnosed. Clearly this a bad association, and something I ought shake off. But for now, babies remind me of 2 things: possible infertility, and possible breast cancer.

Which takes me back to the chair in the waiting room, ignoring the children, and anxious to speak with my doctor about these lumps in my left breast.

She opens the door –sporting a stylish new haircut – and calls me in with a grin. This is a university health care center. The chances of being remembered by your doctor are generally not high, but she remembers me (flattering) because of my breast lump (less flattering), which she referred to the breast clinic. Let’s call her Dr Kind.

Why Dr Kind? Because I like her. 🙂  She is genuine in her concern, and for some reason I find it infinitely easier to talk with this woman about my worries than any of the other doctors. It’s not just because she is a woman (thought that’s partly the reason, I guess); when the cancer was first confirmed she was notified by fax from the general hospital. Upon receiving this fax, she called me on my mobile and invited me in for a chat. That’s good doctoring.

Anyhow, I go up on her table and take off my top, and she starts prodding around. Funny, taking off my top is like nothing now. All that self-consciousness has flown out the window. She commented on how my scar has healed nicely, and I didn’t realize I was showing her my scar – In my head, this is my chest. I forget that a breast is missing, because I don’t notice as much anymore.

That’s a good sign, eh.

Anyhow, she starts prodding. There are bumps and lumps in my left breast, which is normal for a young woman with dense tissue. The question here is: are they cancerous?

“They couldn’t be reoccurance,” she assured me. “Not this long after chemo.”

Whew

“It’d have to be a new cancer.”

Augh!

“But I really think you have nothing to worry about, it’s really quite soon.”

Whew

“Though that’s what I said last time.”

Augh!

And then we laughed, because it was funny – a little dark, but funny. Here we were in the same situation as last May, and she was giving me the same reassurance (don’t worry, it’s probably nothing). Except it was something.

But not this time. That’s what I’m praying. Fingers crossed, legs crossed, arms crossed, eyes crossed. Not thing time, okay? Tomorrow I’ll call the clinic to arrange an appointment. She’s faxed off the referral so they’ll be waiting for my call. But this time I want better results. The hot springs of Hungary are waiting. It’s time for some peace of mind.

Weird going back to the doctor’s office, the very place I first took my initial lump.  Weird laughing at how far we’ve come. But sometimes all you can do is laugh. Laugh or cry, they’re not too different after all.

And that – in a nut shell – was my very busy Valentine’s Day.

A little night maddness

Last night was slightly manic. Combine watching the last episode of Ugly Betty where Molly dies from cancer with staying up too late and an itchy nipple, and things turn a little crazy.

Before finding the cancer in my breast, my nipple had become permanently erect and frequently itchy. Stupid being stupid, I didn’t go to the doctor and ask  for a check up. Instead I kept thinking, “how annoying, how very annoying.” And that was all.

Now I think: OH MY GOD, CANCER.

The other end of the panic spectrum.

It was late last night when I felt an itch, about 11.30 – I reached across my nipple to scratch, felt it was erect and sat up in bed immediately. Light switch on, finger probing and I’m checking for lumps (for the `1000th time in the past two weeks). Rubbing here and there, I check every possible area and feel every possible dent, rise, mound, rib and space. But this breast is bumpy – it’s a dense breast; bumpy is the natural state. So what am I looking for? What would be different last night from yesterday morning, or the day before, or the day before?

But all this rubbing spreads the itch and now I see red marks. Red marks. ‘RASH!’ I think to myself. (or was it all that rubbing?) Checking this morning I can spot a spot here or there, but then again, I can spot a spot all over my body. It’s not hard to find panic signals when you’re desperately looking for them.

Therefore, my panic tail spins and I am convinced it’s a reoccurrence. I want to cry and hide and scream and crumple. It’s now about midnight and the house is silent, everyone is sleeping. What to do? GOOGLE!

So on goes the computer and my fingers start tapping in key words: itchy nipple. Erect nipple. Rash on nipple. Itchy nipple erect rash.

Breast cancer breast cancer breast cancer.

This is not helping me sleep. Instead my mind is turning in circles. My baseline fear of reoccurrence has suddenly jumped from here to HERE. I’m just fucking scared.

But what can you do in the middle of the night, head exhausted, nipple itchy, no one to talk to? Well, all I could do was write Zsolt an email and say exactly how I felt, exactly what I was seeing, and exactly how freaking crazy this was becoming.

It is crazy – crazy that fear is so gripping. Before I’d heard that people often become paranoid, hypochondriacs to some degree, following a battle with cancer. Every ache, scratch, fever, or itchy nipple is a symptom. How long does it take for this fear to stop?

Eventually I fell asleep, and first thing the following morning marched upstairs to my parents room and had my Mom look over the breast. She checked it out, talked me down, and reassured me this is probably an overreaction. This soon after chemotherapy it is unlikely I’d have a tumour developed within my breast.

Unlikely.

Today I’m calmer (following some quality family time), but nevertheless battered from my crazy night. Come next Tuesday I’ll be meeting with Dr Canada, so maybe he can take a look and provide an expert opinion. And Zsolt says that if I keep being stressed we can visit the doctor in England to get an ultrasound arranged. After all, peace of mind is wonderful for one’s health.

Peace of mind. It sounds lovely. Another thing on my ‘cancer recovery list’ is peace of mind. Maybe I’ll even write it twice: Peace of mind, and more peace of mind. It’s worth a double helping.