Monday, January 9, 2012

An End to the Waiting Game

The day after I learned I had cancer I had a myriad of appointments to go to. All of which seemed to serve the purpose of further explaining that I had cancer. It was nice and reassuring to meet with the doctors, all of whom were extremely kind and patient. However, none of them could tell me what was actually going to happen. They all kept telling me that I was very young to have breast cancer and that they couldn’t do anything for me until they got the results from a specific genetic test. So at the end of a very long day they took some of my blood and sent me on my way. Thus, began the waiting game.

I found out that I have cancer just before the holidays. This meant that I would not receive the results from the genetic test until the first or second week of January (I know, I know, lab technicians deserve their holidays too). This only made things harder. All I could do was explain to people that I had breast cancer and that I would be okay in a few months. I couldn’t give them any evidence of that fact. I could not tell them what people were doing to make me okay. This brings me to another point: Telling people you have breast cancer sucks. No one likes to feel like a sadness making machine (Seriously, if you want to make a person frown, tell them you have cancer). I wasn’t sure how to do this. I tried, in good old Michaela fashion, to make a video full of bad drawings; too many commas; and great Love’n Spoonful music, but that didn’t go over so well as very few people watched it. This may also have to do with the fact that it had a terrible misnomer, “I Believe in Magic.” Aside from that, I kept telling people in somewhat shocking ways such as unsuspecting text conversations, unsophisticated cancer jokes, and drunkenly responding to the “how are you?” question with, “I have breast cancer, but I’m okay. Now, drink!” Perhaps, now that I think about it, I didn’t handle this whole waiting thing as well as I thought…

However, the responses that I’ve gotten have been overwhelming. I never would have made it through all of this waiting without the amazing support of friends, family, and even people I don’t know. So many people have offered kind words and prayers that I am astounded. Many people have even told me their own stories about battling cancer or dealing with loved ones who’ve had cancer. People also relate to me through their stories about other life tragedies. The human capacity to reach out and make connections with others is truly amazing. My faith in humanity has been completely restored. Kindness really is everywhere. You may think I’m being na├»ve, but judging from the number of hugs I get now, I can tell you that you’re wrong. Personally, the hugs are the best thing about having cancer. Anyone who knows me knows that I never turn down a good hug. Even if said hug does squash Sven (my tumor—don’t ask, my friends are both strange and awesome) and therefore, hurt. It’s a good kind of hurt. It hurts so good it’s almost worth having cancer just to get the hugs in the first place.

All things must come to an end and so the waiting game has ended. I got a call on Friday explaining to me that they would like to make an appointment to talk to me about my genetic testing results. I, cursing myself because I yet again missed their call, called back as soon as I finished listening to the voice message. Of course, I was immediately put on hold. I’m sure you can plainly see me huddled in a ball on my couch with a pen and a notebook in front of me ready to write down new information. Regrettably, I was on hold for over fifteen minutes and thus, only managed to doodle and memorize their pleasant messages. Seriously, every time I felt like hanging up and calling back I would hear, “We appreciate your patience as we serve others. Thank you for holding.” Obviously, this only made me feel guilty and I stayed on the line. I finally did hang up and call back. Apparently, they forgot about me… I asked to speak to the nurse practitioner in charge of me and the secretary politely explained that they only wanted me to make an appointment to discuss the results. To which I responded, “can I please just know whether the results came back negative or positive? I will still come in to discuss the results, but I just want to know.” I obviously sounded pretty pathetic because the secretary hesitated and put me on hold for a few minutes. She returned to the line and said, “I’m sorry, but we really prefer to speak with you in person.” I thanked her for her patience and asked when I would be able to meet with the nurse practitioner. She gave me an appointment time for Monday and I politely ended the conversation.

Well, I was furious. Who calls a person on a Friday, this means I have to wait the whole weekend before I know what’s happening to me, and says, “We know what’s going to happen to you, but we won’t tell you.” What kind of sick sadistic people do this to a person?!?!? I’m sure they have very good reasons, but it’s still annoying. I then proceeded to call my dear friend and vent about the whole thing. Sadly, when I’m angry I’m not very intimidating because all I do is shake. It’s really quite funny. I can hardly speak and therefore, my phrases are kept blissfully short. My friend took it like a champ though and remained calm, which I appreciate.

Following the phone call with my friend I called the plastic surgeon because they had called me about an appointment that I had scheduled (just in case I should need any sort of reconstruction) only to find out that the woman I needed to speak with was in a meeting and would be finished in half an hour. I then waited for an hour and a half before I finally called back again. Upon calling, she pointed out that they were going to change my appointment day, but that they had heard from my other surgeon that I was meeting them earlier on the same day. So, they decided not to change my appointment. I had no idea about this appointment with my regular surgeon. Apparently, it had been made without my knowledge (This was later confirmed by my visit to the oncologist). Obviously, worse case scenarios were running through my head after this. So roughly three weeks of patiently waiting were followed by one weekend of extreme waiting. Pretty much, my family and I just kept super busy.

Finally, Monday arrived. After some slight confusion over which building the office was in, my parents and I showed up at the oncologist’s with ten minutes to spare. A nurse took us into your typical exam room. It was a bit cramped and we were all trying to talk about light and happy things. The nurse practitioner came in with a smile on her face. She quickly informs me that I do not have any genetic mutations. This means that I’m not genetically predisposed to have cancer and, even more importantly, that I don’t need to have a bilateral mastectomy. We all breathed a sigh of relief. The NP further explains that there is one more DNA test she would like to have done, but that it may take some time to convince the insurance company to come around. Also, the likelihood of this test coming back with unhappy news is less than 3%. To sum up, I get to keep my breasts. HALLELUIAH!!!! I am so happy! I immediately went out with my parents and had a beer and a large, elk burger to celebrate. I also called both of my grandmothers and assured them that I’m going to be okay. It’s easier assure others that I am going to be okay now that I know what’s going to happen.

I might still have some reconstructive work done because Sven happens to be a very large tumor, but I get to keep most of my original tissue. Which is great. They’ve gotten pretty great reviews over the years from friends and boyfriends alike. Also, I’m pretty attached to my breasts (Get it?) and I was not looking forward to being separated from them. The downside is that I have lost my chance to have perfect breasts of my choosing and getting the chance to ask for an Inspector Gadget model. Now, I will have four rounds of chemotherapy to try and shrink Sven before the surgeon gets rid of it. This will be followed by possible reconstruction, four more chemotherapy and then radiation. Yep, the waiting game has ended. Now, a new game begins. This next phase won’t be a picnic, but thank, God for the small victories.

3 comments:

  1. You could do what I do. Geneally I try to be polite and patient but really I am just not very good at that. However, in my head I carry around an imaginary bag of big, purple rocks. When anyone offends me or just pisses me off, which happens a great deal espcecially when I ride my bike and am almost flattened by a driver that can't be bothered to put the cell phone dow...but I digress, I pull out one these big purple rocks and lob one, even two at the offender. Some days there are a great many purple rocks strewn across the landscape.

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  2. I'm glad that the limbo life period has passed!

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  3. ...You would be made to feel guilty by a pre-recorded message ;)

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