I was apprehensive about my late afternoon oncologist’s appointment and the day seemed to drag. My sister arrived at 11 a.m. to go along with me. We had the lunch she picked up and an animated chat during which I repeatedly checked the time. I knew my ignorance of the extent of my breast cancer recurrence would end soon, and there had been some comfort in my ignorance.
As we headed out, the weather was deceptive. It was a bright, sunny spring day but the wind carried quite a chill. The ambulette driver was a burly fellow and it took a while for him to secure the tiedowns. Since the jump seat faced front, my sister had to turn sideways so we could visit. It was a challenging position for her since she gets carsick easily. She scratched off Ohio lottery tickets and quickly announced that mine was not a winner. She won $2, not quite enough to cover her cost.
It was a bumpy ride to Columbus. I wonder why they still cannot effectively stretch the body of a van so that it does not shake my innards into a milkshake. I did not need that. My nerves were doing it on their own.
We arrived at the oncology center before 3 p.m. hoping for a short wait. But we were not called back until after 3:30 p.m. The center has large aquariums and windows, but no TV because it is considered stressful. A laptop size device is provided for patients to access the Internet for patient information. My sister was not interested because she was checking e-mails on her iPhone. I watched people and noticed that some of the patients looked like lost sheep.
We waited in the examination room for another half hour to 45 minutes. I always leave the door open some since the room gets quite warm with two people in it. My oncologist appeared and apologized for being late. I thought he looked totally exhausted. But that might have reflected the way I felt. He asked how I was and I said that I thought my mental state was worse than my physical one. He nodded knowingly.
He said my scans showed that I have multiple right axillary lymph nodes—under my arm—that are cancerous and he wants them to be removed.
I have a lot of air in my belly and one kidney stone in each kidney. Since I have had kidney stones before and am now on a calcium supplement, they were not too surprising.
The scans did not show cancer anywhere else. However, a mass was found in my lower left abdomen. They thought it was an ovary but those were removed many years ago. My oncologist feels it should be removed, but is referring me to a gynecological oncologist for his opinion on Monday.
So it looks like I will need two surgeries. I hoped that my surgeries could be done close by since it cuts down on travel time to procedures and follow-up visits. But I have since learned that I will probably need to have the mass removed in Columbus. My sister wondered if I could have both procedures done at the same time, or within a couple of days of each other during one hospitalization. But I am pretty sure that will not happen. I just wonder which one they will decide to do first.
Since my oncologist does not have enough information to do a treatment plan and prognosis, I will not see him until after the surgeries are completed.
I came home somewhat relieved because waiting is never fun and my news could have been much worse. It is funny that since I know about the abdominal mass, I seem to have aches and pains that were not there before. But then, I no longer have the bliss of ignorance to fall back on.
I had considered the lymph node surgery. But I had not bargained for abdominal surgery as well. I know it is necessary for the doctors to learn the extent of the disease, increase my survival chances, and to try to maintain my quality-of-life. I will get the strength and inner peace to get through it all. Since I have been through breast cancer twice before, I know that I must put my faith and trust in the doctors and others who will care for me. I have the support of my family and friends. But dealing with cancer is a singular battle. It really is something I have to do myself. Right now, my largest task is pushing my fear away.