I have been freaking out for the past couple of weeks. I didn't really share it with anyone because I didn't want other people to be freaking out as well. Besides, I knew it was probably all in my head. A little seed of doubt that is always present, exploited by the enemy to steal away my peace of mind, and dare I say it, my joy. Even though I knew that, I couldn't help but freak out. I filled out a prayer request form at church a couple weeks ago and knew people were praying for me to have peace that passes all understanding. I even met with one of our pastors yesterday for prayer. I would have some periods where a few hours would go by without my worry. But it would inevitably return.
You see, it is October. Every October, I am due to "check in" with my oncologist, Dr. P. I've noticed a pattern leading up to the appointment of increased anxiety. It seemed to be at its worst this time around. What do you do when you're freaking out in the middle of the night? Thinking that you are feeling tumors in your body, that really are your rib cage and sternum? Are they really that bumpy? I guess without breast tissue they are.
Two and a half weeks ago, I started serious training for my first marathon in January. The reason I bring this up is that I've been feeling the effects of the longer runs, especially in my lungs. It's not pain, just a sensation that they are being used, stretched. But that didn't help my peace of mind at all. After all, maybe that sensation was cancer in my lung tissue.
I wasn't really freaking out about how a recurrence would affect me. It was more playing out the scenarios in my head about how it would affect my family. I imagined Dr. P feeling around and coming to a bump and pausing with a concerned look and palpating. Then recommending further testing of some kind that would confirm my worst fear. It was back. I wondered how I would tell the kids that the cancer was back. I wondered how they would get to all their activities and school without me in the picture. How long could I make it with mets? Would it hurt? Would I be around for Olivier's high school graduation? What about poor Jean-Marc? What about Isabelle? To be the only girl in a house full of Jamois men. Oh la la. This is macabre, I know. But I even thought about what kind of memorial service would be held once I had gone to be with the Lord.
What a waste of energy and emotion. I knew that, but couldn't help but be drawn into that vortex of "what if." It sucked.
So today was the big day. I went on a 14 mile training run this morning-my longest run ever. It was on my schedule, and I figured why not? Can a sick person really run 14 miles? No. But maybe?
The appointment itself was pretty uneventful. Dr. P knows I like to run, and I mentioned that I started doing triathlons this year. He told me 3 years ago that he does tris, so we chatted about what races I had done this year as he started his exam. He felt the lymph nodes in my neck, checked my lungs and heart. Then he had me lie back while he did the palpitation part of the exam. He felt around on my chest, abdomen, internal organs, etc. Unlike my freak out scenarios, he did not stop. It was all over pretty quickly.
He wants me to take another estrogen level blood test to see where my levels are. As usual, I asked for a Vitamin D test too. He recommended a pap test-I haven't had one of those for 3 years. He also said to keep popping the tamoxifen, which I'm happy to do. He said recent studies recommend taking it for 10 years. That's fine with me.
Then he said, "Well, it has been over 3 years now. That is a milestone." Really? I didn't ask for specifics, but I'm assuming that its a milestone in the whole survivor dance. Maybe I should have asked about it. Does that mean my chance of recurrence goes down? Maybe I'll e-mail him and ask. Not that it really matters, but maybe it will make me less anxious come next April when I have to do this all again.
About this blog
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.