How cancer patients tell time.

There’s this interesting balance to be mindful of as a cancer patient. Now, I’m new to this side of things, but I’m already perceiving time in a completely different way.

B.C. and A.D. Before Cancer and After Diagnosis.

A few rules I keep hearing: keep life as normal as you can, don’t change too much, don’t let cancer own your life, go to work, keep your mind busy. And in the same breath: you cannot get a cold, you can’t be in crowds, be mindful of germs, wipe everything down, wash your hands 898 times a day.

Easy enough, I guess, especially as a proud germaphobe. But I’ve always had the most amazing immune system, so I didn’t worry THAT much about getting some microbes on me. It’s almost comical that I, of all people, would get cancer in my immune system. Damn lymphocytes (aka white blood cells – see, we’re all learning things!)

Last week I went through my pre-chemo work up. Because of the ABVD chemo cocktail I’m getting, they want to make sure my lungs and heart are in tip-top shape right before their destruction. HA! I kid, I’ll be fine. Kinda.

First up was something I’ve never had before: a pulmonary function test. Zach came with me and, Lisa, our tech was phenomenal. She was sarcastic and funny — and I instantly loved her. During the hour-long test, Lisa would coach me through different breathing exercises while I sat in a clear box. I was blowing into a machine that measured how great or not so great my lungs were doing. I passed with flying colors.

Next, the echocardiogram, my old friend. It’s just an ultrasound and because the room is usually dark, it’s the perfect time for a disco nap. I was born with a pretty gnarly heart murmur so I would get echoes done yearly or more until the hole in my heart closed up on its own when I was about 18. The sonographer was great and he said my heart looked bitchin’ to which I replied, “YAS! Bring it on chemo!”

Sidenote to say, that aside from my original doctor, everyone at UCLA has been so incredible. I’m anxious to meet all the oncology nurses because I’m already planning on baking them cookies…so they better be nice.

Anywho, I’ve been cleared for chemotherapy and I’m eager to start. The sooner it begins, the sooner it’ll end. I’m fighting all the other thoughts in my head about the pain, nausea, headaches, and discomfort it’ll bring and trying to focus on all the magic the chemicals will be doing. In two months, I’ll be getting a PET scan to see how the cancer is reacting to treatment. And two months after that, I’ll hopefully be done with chemo. Then, it’s a lifetime of being monitored. Operative word being “lifetime.”

So yeah, 2017 is going to be weird. But in a year from now, this will all be a memory that will have shaped me for the better. I’m going to kick cancer in the face so hard, but I think we’ll end up having this strange, mutual respect for one another in the end.

 

 

 


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