Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Privilege

March 26, 2014. I first heard that date back in October, on the day of my last infusion. I remember thinking that date sounded so far in the future that I couldn’t even comprehend it. I remember clicking forward five times on my phone to enter the appointment into the proper month. And I remember the ironic feeling that I know so well—the feeling of desperately wanting the future and also being so deeply scared of it.

I wasn’t nervous for today’s appointment because I figured I couldn’t possibly receive any bad news. Still, I knew I’d have to talk to Dr. Bunnell about the pain that persists in my chest, and I wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.

I hate talking about my pain for lots of reasons, one being that I can’t describe it well and that just frustrates me. It’s a deep pain, sometimes so deep that I can feel it behind my shoulder. Sometimes the pain is dull, but sometimes it’s sharp; sometimes it burns, and sometimes it aches. With all my breast tissue long gone and the nerves still not functioning, it can be a strange sensation to feel something beneath where I feel nothing.

In anticipation of this appointment, I tried to pay productive attention to the pain in for the last few days. I stayed away from CrossFit to see if it would improve with rest. It did, a little bit, but it’s definitely still there, and I’m more anxious than ever to return to the gym.

After my CT scan last week, I felt indescribable relief that cancer did not appear to be the culprit of the pain. Dr. Bunnell is confident that it is not. Still, after I answered his questions about my pain today, he ordered a bone scan. This is the last of the tests he will do to try to confirm that my pain is not caused by a recurrence. After that, he explained, we would have looked everywhere there is to look.

I had not requested a bone scan, had not anticipated placing it on tomorrow’s to do list, and dread it like I've dreaded all other tests that could turn up cancer. But Dr. Bunnell thinks it’s a good idea, if only to be absolutely sure the Intruder is not lurking inside. Fun times.

It turns out that three hours prior to the bone scan tomorrow, they need to inject me with some sort of fluid. “Three hours?” I asked the scheduling lady, surprised. “That’s a long time!” I exclaimed. Sometimes having a job can be tricky on the schedule and this week has certainly shaped up to be one of those times.

For a whole bunch of different reasons, tomorrow is not a convenient time for me to spend over four hours at Dana-Farber. With a job like my mom has, I’m 100% certain that it’s not convenient for her, either. But knowing that Brian wouldn’t be able to take me (he has his own medical appointments to handle tomorrow), my mom never hesitated.

“I can do this alone,” I assured her, trying to convince myself as I said it that it was true.

“Absolutely not!” she insisted. I could tell she wouldn’t budge so I didn’t even bother arguing any more. Plus, I really wanted her to be with me. I’m such a wimp.

Lately I joke with my mom about the craziest thing that she often says. She tells me that it’s a “privilege” for her that she can help me through all of this cancer stuff. I laugh at her whenever she says that. “A privilege that you get to help me though all this shit? Oh yes, you’re one lucky lady!”

“I mean it,” she explains, smiling at my sarcasm.

I don’t know that there are many caregivers out there who consider it a privilege to rearrange their schedule for their loved one’s third scan, to sit in waiting rooms for hours, and to be strong in countless stressful moments in between. I’m pretty sure that normal people would consider all of that to be quite a burden. But my mom’s not normal. She’s like a superhero; using all her strength to help rescue someone weaker; and believing all the while that she is actually fortunate to be able to do that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tara,
    I have had off and on issues with "post mastectomy pain syndrome," which got so bad I had to go on Neurontin for it. Your description sounds like it, if you look it up you will find that a pretty good percentage of mastectomy recipients end up with it. It is due to unavoidable damage to probably the intercostal brachial nerve during surgery. Behind the shoulder blade, in the nonexistent breast, sometimes like a little sharp electric shock, sometimes an excruciating ache, sometimes the upper outer arm even. Sometimes around the underside and outer edge of the "breast" or "bump" as we call those things around here. It manifests in many ways and is not uncommon. One od the many possible secondary effects of cancer treatment. Good luck with everything! Take care, Laura