Cancer -- The Gift That Keeps on Giving

There is a misconception that with cancer, it's diagnosis-chemo/radiation/surgery--done/cured.  Not so.  I don't know when we as a society started to substitute the word remission with cured.  Did they find a cure for cancer and I never heard about it?  I didn't realize this had happened until I was diagnosed.  The nurse practitioner said, "I'm so sorry; it's Stage IV, there is no cure."  I thought, "Duh, it's cancer, everyone knows there's no cure" and in my state of shock thought her wording was odd, but thought nothing of it.  I've come to find out that in general, people think that once treatment is over, cancer has magically disappeared.  I was diagnosed Stage IV/metastatic/terminal from the get-go.  I don't hear the term terminal very much, though.  I think that it's all part of the desensitizing/sanitizing of humanity.  As an aside, I have a blog post in the works entitled "When I Die", and one of the things I list is "Don't say I passed, or passed away, or transitioned, or went home to be with the Lord -- say I died.  Don't sanitize it or try to make it less than it is.  It's death, pure and simple."  I think society as a whole has, over the years, tried to make things less uncomfortable, and as a result, has desensitized us to some harsh truths.  Back to my original train of thought -- there are so many Stage I, II, III cancer patients who are told after treatment has been successful that they're cured.  Then they are thrown for quite the loop when the cancer comes back.  They thought it was never coming back.  I'm not going to bore you with statistics here, you can look those up if you want to, but nobody should be surprised when the cancer comes back.  I like the way my oncologist told me, and I think that everyone should be told that there is a chance that the cancer will come back.  She told me after my first good scan and I asked her if she could tell me I'm NED (no evidence of disease) that no, she would never be able to tell me that, but she can tell me that I'm NEAD (no evidence of active disease), and that's the best she could ever tell me.  So, as long as I'm considered NEAD, I'm super happy.  :)   Off on another tangent, my latest CT scan shows stable; I think I told you that.  What I haven't told you is that I read the report.  I don't have it in front of me, so I can't give you precise numbers, but it does say that there are things in my lung.  Oncologist says it could be scar tissue, could be cancer, could be anything.  The good news is that there is only one spot that is big enough to be measured -- and it has shrunk since the last scan.  It went from 0.6 to 0.5cm if I recall correctly.  On the maintenance/preventative medication.  How cool is that?!  Back on track again -- I personally believe that all cancer patients should be told to not be surprised if/when their cancer comes back.  We have scans and tests routinely for a reason.

What originally prompted this post that I keep going off on tangents with?  Oh, yes, the gift that keeps on giving.  I had a physical therapy appointment this morning.  It had been a year since I've been.  I originally went to physical therapy after my mastectomy for lymphedema evaluation/prevention.  Got that all squared away, and thought I was good.  At my last appointment with my oncologist, the nurse practitioner noticed decreased range of motion with my left shoulder, so wrote an order for me to go to physical therapy.  I went this morning.  She wants to see me twice a week.  My insurance is wonderful, but the copay is $15 each time.  That's $30 per week.  I have appointments scheduled so far through the first week of March; we'll reevaluate then and decide how many to schedule after that.  So, for the appointments I have on the calendar right now, that's $300 I don't have.  On top of that, there's time off from work to consider.  I already take off one day every six weeks for treatment, plus once or twice every three months for tests.  My physical therapy appointments will translate into me being two hours late twice per week.  I was able to schedule two of the appointments for days when school is closed, and I was able to schedule all of the appointments on B days (I work at a school that uses an A/B day schedule), so I will be missing my morning duty and planning time, so I think that will work out fine.

In chatting with my physical therapist, I mentioned how hard it was for me to break the cycle to actually stick with an exercise routine.  This is very important, as my cardiologist wants me to do cardio exercises on a regular basis (one of my meds is detrimental to the heart).  I know that once I get into an established routine, the energy will come.  It's getting the initial energy to get the process started that's a problem. I've tried.  The most recent time, I got on the treadmill for three days straight.  The next day I couldn't muster the energy to get on again.  My physical therapist suggested a recumbent bike.  That I don't have.  

So, I had given up selling knitted items at craft fairs, because I just don't have the energy to do as much knitting as I used to, and sitting at a craft fair from 7am-2pm(ish) takes more stamina than I have anymore.  Maybe if I start now for next Fall's craft fairs.  Hmm....

Cancer -- the gift that keeps on giving ... medication side effects ... anxiety/depression ... change in routine ... change in relationships ... the list goes on and on....

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