Cancer log 38: …

Cancer Log 38:

Fear is the mind killer. I was talking to my sister the other day; shes a doctor, and shes had a lot of patients with a lot of things to worry about. I was telling her that while I didnt know how the rest of this would go, I thought the worst part might be this early stretch, the waiting. I am not too anxious a person, yet even so, it would be easy to give in to dread. And dread is a) a horrible feeling, and b) just pointless  worrying about the next procedure, the next treatment, isnt going to help. Oh, theres a certain amount of preparation that can be useful, familiarizing yourself with whats about to happen. But theres an important line between being usefully informed and just dwelling on everything that could go wrong.

When I had my first c-section, I was surprised that after getting the spinal injection (which I had known about), they strapped down my arms in the shape of a cross. No one had warned me about that part, and it felt oddly disconcerting, to be so immobilized. I understood why they did it  multiple doctors might need quick access to my sides, and having my arms in the way wouldnt help at all. I might even flail around at the wrong moment and knock a scalpel out of the way. It made sense, but it wouldve been nice to be warned about that bit of the procedure in advance.

They did tell me about the blue drape that would keep me from seeing what they were doing, which I was, on the whole, grateful for, despite also having some curiosity about the whole thing. (They told Kevin he could watch if he wanted, but he opted not to, staying on my side of the curtain.) They didnt warn me that I might vomit during the process, just a bit (the bodys reaction to having its organs moved in and out, so they could get at the baby), which I wouldve liked to know in advance. I was better prepared the second time around, and that made it easier to get through it.

Its hard figuring out how much one might rather know or not know, and I cant really blame the doctors for not getting it exactly right. I imagine every patient is different, and the best they can do is get the broad outlines of it appropriate. Which leaves it up to us, the afflicted, to figure out how much we actually want to know.

I was curious how the chemo would get into my body, and I started researching it a few weeks ago  there are pills, but theres also an IV version, which seems more likely, and that probably involves having whats called a port placed, and I made the mistake of googling images of that, and the first few that came up were from hardy souls who had decided to take selfies during the port insertion process and post the rather gory results. I admit  it made me stomach churn.

I kept looking, fascinated despite myself, and was relieved that the end result, once the incision had healed over, didnt seem that bad  just a little bump under the skin, not a big deal. Apparently, some patients even forgot to get it out when their chemo was over, and came in months later to have it removed. That all made me feel better, so a little research bad, a little more research good. A fine line.

Theres a long list of things I could fret over  I glanced at the potential side effects of chemo, and the list is enormous and sounds horribly unpleasant. But I probably wont experience most of those, and the ones I do  well, Ill deal with them as they come. On every pill insert, even the pills that many of us take routinely, theres a long list of potential side effects. If you read that list, if you dwell on them, you may well conjure those symptoms into existence. The body may reflect what the mind expects of it. Better, I think, to focus on other things, as best you can.

Tuesday will likely be a rough day  two procedures, and the nurse asked if Id rather schedule them on two separate days. Im sure Ill be aching, but no, lets get it over with, as fast as is medically sound. Ive had more than enough time to wait and worry  despite all my effort, a little dread has crept in around the edges. Stomach-churning, skin-chilling.

There was a long stretch in our past relationship  actually, a couple of them  when I would get really anxious about how much Kevin loved me. I mean, I knew he loved me, but did he love me enough? In the right way? Sufficiently romantically, like in the fairy tales? I would push him on the topic, which I imagine was pretty torturous for him, since Kev is not really given to explicitly trying to explain his feelings. Sometimes Id work myself into a quite a state  late night upsets, tears and headaches and arguing, and in retrospect, oy vey, what a mess.

At some point, I basically just stopped. Because after many years of this, off and on, I realized that a) it wasnt getting me anywhere, b) I was just spiraling myself deeper and deeper into hysteria, and c) maybe it was time to try something else. So the next time I started wanting to push him to profess his adoration for me (at 1 a.m. or some other ungodly hour), I got up, went into the other room, picked up a book (a Terry Pratchett favorite, I think), and read for a while until I calmed down. Like magic.

This weekend, I saw several old friends. We talked about the cancer a bit, but glancingly  they generally took their cue from me, and while Im sure they would have been willing to talk about cancer at length if thats what Id needed to do, in the end, I found that that wasnt what I wanted from them. Instead, we talked about sweet kids, changing jobs, new babies, novels in the works. We talked about the kinds of things weve always talked about, renewing our friendship in the way one does with friends who live too far away and are seen too rarely. That was far more reassuring than anything they might have directly said about the cancer.

At the end of a meal, we exchanged hugs, perhaps a little harder and longer than usual. Thats what Id rather focus on, rather think about. Warm hands, warm hearts. Funny stories. What will come, will come.

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