As promised to myself, I am channeling the good, the bad and the ugly through means of therapy in writing this blog. The “ugly” materialized upon me earlier this week and it succeeded in its endeavor by assembling my feelings to a condensed state. I struggled with publishing this post, as it was a deeply personal and dark emotional frame of mind. But, unfortunately, much like anything in life, cancer is not all sunshine and rainbows. In an effort to support myself, with the possibility of other’s through my experience with cancer, I have opted to share some of my murkiest moments as I continue on this path and the affect this past week had on me.
Sleep, in it’s unvarying form, has been lackluster, but more particularly so, as I knew that my Oncologist would convey the awaited PET scan results when I would see her on Monday afternoon. Noticeably, I have come to have an aversion to any and all activities concerning appointments, as the time consumed in a Doctor’s office is suiting to become more common than time spent at home. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but incontestably it feels as though they are the local haunts these days and not by my election. I digress; although not keen, I attended the appointment with an assurance, a positive induced expectation as to what the results would indicate. In my pipedream it went a little something like this, “Britt, after Radiology reviewed the PET, you are clear of any remaining cancer cells….”
Quite the contrary to my expectation, the reality promptly infected the idea that my hopes could not have been reasoned to be correct. Resolutely, the epic tale of expectations versus reality was my front and center. Per the norm, the moment I heard, “we found a….”, I transcended into the first law of nature, self-preservation. As it turns out, through all of the clicks and whistles I heard thereafter, the synopsis was that another diseased formation was living in my body, rent-free. This particular invader is making up a new colony of cancer cells, outside of the originating habitat on my colon and ovary. The Oncologist said that the precise dwelling is ambiguous, but it appears to be in the stomach region.
As my Doctor is becoming more personal with me, she grasped to touch my knee in a form of comfort as she was relaying the disappointing information. It was as though I was reliving the lurid pangs of the initial diagnosis and the news was pummeling me in the gut, yet again. This time, I didn’t go straight into business mode, as per my initial reaction when being diagnosed as I lay in the hospital bed, just hours out of my invasive, unpredictable surgery. Now I departed into the dimmest part of my brain and felt vacant. The Oncologist proceeded to share her thoughts on the newfound formation and the lack of measures that could be done, outside of chemo. However, as I was drenched in the residue of the new proceedings, all I could hear was the inaudible voice of Mrs. Donovan, the teacher in Charlie Brown (wah, wah, wah, wahh, wahhh).
In all fairness to the Doctor, my zoning out was to no fault of her own. She cordially and candidly provided me with the thorough details of what the PET scan had to offer and simply advised that being that my diagnosis is already Stage IV, there is nothing outside of the already planned chemo treatments to fix it. Of course, there was always a chance that there were remaining cancer cells, post surgery, but to hear of new cancer cells was the glorious fact that sent the alarm bells ringing. Customarily, Steve and my Nan were there, the glue holding me together and of course questioning the Doctor and the next steps, where I could not in my trance like state. The only question, or demand rather, was that I be prescribed anti-depression medication. I was there, I had irreversibly exhausted my positivity at that moment and my mind was seeking numbness out of the teeny white pill. In concluding with the Oncologist, she said that she would continue to monitor me and check in after my first chemo treatment to see how well I did, or lack thereof.
Seizing every fiber of my being to hold it together during the walk out of the Doctor’s office and into the parking lot, I finally fell apart as we reached the blackening hot asphalt. Steve and my Nan both held me, with reassurance that it would all be okay after chemo. The truth is, I know it will all be okay. Very few times have I truly questioned the alternative, but this time I was pushed into anger. For weeks now I have been a poster child for the brave and the positive. Reassuring other people that yes, I will be just fine and more importantly reassuring myself that the PET scan results would come back perfect. Then I started to question my positive mentality. Is there such thing as being too positive and optimistic? After all, everyone says attitude is everything and positivity is half the battle. But what’s the catch? In that moment I felt trapped in my own hopefulness and it became clear that there was a huge difference between expectation and reality.
Expecting one thing and receiving a different outcome, in any situation can be gravely disappointing. Walking into a Doctor’s office, awaiting the nature of your future health and expecting to walk out scotch free is a colossal mistake in the realm of expectations. My two lovely supporters expressed that they were happy with the results. Not of course that another cancer cell was found, but that it was just one, instead of the many that it could have possibly been. They viewed it as a fortunate outcome, while I viewed it as a partial death sentence.
The moral of the story is that this is all a learning experience. You can’t help how you feel, whether it is good, bad or ugly. I walked into the Doctor’s office with an upbeat approach that I would be clear of any additional cancer cells, to what I already had. My expectation was that I would be unblemished of any disease but the reality turned out to be misrepresented. Could my results have been worse? Absolutely! But, the reality is, I am going to be undergoing chemo treatments next week and my expectation and reality will be that I will make it through triumphantly and one day merge my expectations with reality by dubbing myself a cancer survivor.