Monday, September 14, 2009

You Never Get Used to It

Today at 12:15 PM I will visit my oncologist for another follow-up appointment. It's been over three years since my diagnosis, but the appointments keep coming, and they keep reminding me that it's never really over. Every three months or so, I visit with my oncologist, or my surgeon, or the lab technician (for blood samples to be taken). In addition to those visits, I have either an MRI scan or a mammogram every six months.

You'd think that I would eventually get used to all this. But I don't think that you ever do. In fact, during my last mammogram in May, I needed to have additional "angles" assessed because the technician reported to me that the radiologist had seen something "suspicious" in the mammogram pictures. Upon hearing the words "something suspicious" my heart rate soared, my body quaked, and I felt week in the knees. The tech. didn't appear to notice my anxiety as fear crashed into me. Instead she just said dryly, "We need to take a few more pictures because the doctor thinks he sees something that we need to 'chase', but I guess you're used to that, right?"

No, you never get used to it. Not any of it. Not the scans, the blood work, the office visits, nor the waiting for the results to be known. I just faked a smile, and I could feel my palms become moist. My mind filled with images of more chemo, and more explanations to people that I'd had a recurrence. More uncertainty loomed.

I raised my arms and gripped the thin metal bar located along the side of the mammogram machine. I held my breath as instructed. I tried not to cry. The additional pictures were taken. It seemed to hurt more this time. My breast was red from the compressions of the machine; it throbbed afterwards. Finally, I left the room to sit in the radiation suite and wait for the results. Those were some of the most agonizing minutes I've ever felt.

"You're all done. They were all clear," the tech. finally reported to me. Fortunately, during that particular visit, the repeat mammogram turned out to be negative.

Almost numb, I arose and I walked into the small dressing room once again to change back into my clothes. Before I removed my gown, I instinctively grabbed a small white towel from the shelf and held it to my face. I didn't want anyone to hear my sobs of relief, combined with sobs of momentary anguish, that just erupted from my soul.

I often read several blogs from women who are going through treatments for the second or third time and I silently (almost selfishly) ask myself, "What if I'll be next? What if this day will mark the beginning of a second recurrence for me? What then? Why have I been spared from a recurrence thus far?"

No, you don't get used to it. Not ever. Over time, the thing you do get used to is the daily reminders that life is too short, too precious, to ever take for granted.

There's one more thing that I need to remind myself to get used to. And here it is: God is in complete control. He's the One I lean on, and hold on to with all my strength, while I wait for lab results to be known, or as I hear the hammering noises of the MRI scan vibrating all around me, or as I sit in the doctor's office waiting for my name to be called.

Submitting to God's will for my life is the most difficult, yet at the same time the most liberating, concept to embrace. He has all the answers and knows all the "results" already planned for my life. Although it takes getting used to, each and every day I need to lay down my burdens and fears to the only One who already knows.


Kim said...

Karen, this was powerful. I had a mammogram today so I could easily image the physical situation but not the emotional one. I'm sorry that you had to go through that but seeing how God has used that situation is wonderful.
Love you,

Karen L. Holmes said...

Kim -- God bless you, and thanks for commenting!

Debby said...

Oh, Karen, I so totally understand this. I kept thinking that my fear was because my diagnosis was relatively recent, but talking to others, I realize that the fear can linger on for years.

I have doubled my prayer time, and my devotion time. It helps. It helps a lot.

WhiteStone said...

I finished up my chemo in July. That means I've had one 3-month checkup (bloods, CT scan) since then. My next 3-month will be in early October. And already that seems too far away and I am anxious to have it done and hear that all is well. I think I'd rather have the tests every 2 months. It seems I barely get past a sigh of relief before I am again anxiously looking forward to the next test. And yet, in all of this, I have to stop myself and remember that God is in control and that my life will last just exactly as long as He wills. I need to have bigger faith.

Renee said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so eloquently.

My visual is walking on water. . .

. . .and I need to get that back!

Many blessings to you and your family.