Apr 5, 2015

Checking out from Oncology

- Ok, so let's agree on never meeting hear again!

It’s Easter Sunday. The forecast predicted grey skies and snow at times for the whole weekend, but it’s actually nice outside. Some sun and practically no wind. I wish I could be out there. Take a little walk. Facebook is flooded with people skiing in the mountains, ice fishing, sitting in the lee soaking the sun. Traveling. One friend just coming back from New Orleans, another arriving at the Tokyo airport. Happy people having Easter dinners with family and friends. It all seems so fun. Lively and vivid. I wonder if they are grateful. I am lying on my couch. And I will soon be grateful for having my balcony door opened, letting some spring air in.
The thing is, I should be really really grateful. I should be out of this world grateful. On Thursday I was checked out from the Oncology unit at the Umeå university hospital. I made it through the last check up, and six years after breast cancer I am finally released from tests and examinations and I am in every sense we know of cancer free. But all I can feel right now is envy of everyone out there who have the possibility enjoying Easter in a context. Embarrassing.
Of course I am grateful, of course I am. I found the tumor in my left breast November 2008, had surgery, chemo and radiation 2009. Took hormones for the decease for five years, ended the treatment September 2014. The check up program was every 3rd month first year, second year every 6th month, then once a year for four years. 
It is not like I have been thinking about the cancer on a daily bases during these years, but every check up is yet terrifying. And as for these yearly controls they have been in the spring. In January the subconscious me starts preparing for the envelopes from the hospital showing up in my mail. Wanting me for the labs. The mammogram. The skeleton scint. And finally the results from my oncologist. I have also hated this procedure ruining March and April for me, months which I love, and the family Birthday Season.
I had been looking forward like crazy quitting the hormones in September. One of the possible side effects from them is being swollen, and I was. I had gained 26 pounds since I weighed in before the surgery. 9 pounds during the treatments and then little by little over there years. I have felt a lot like being pregnant/post pregnant, but knowing it was probably mostly from the hormones I just had to accept it and wait it out. They told me the kilos would start falling off in a month or so. Nothing happened. Nada. Niente. Nichts. Not a single uns or gram. And the feeling of being swollen is as evident as before. My face looks like a moon and my hands and feet firm and “full” from something that has to be fluid.
This is a mystery though, they can’t find the reason for it. I hate it, it makes me very uncomfortable and I want my old body back. But I am beginning to think this is one of the things the cancer left me with. Some women has to live with a “lymph arm” after evacuating the axilla, that didn’t happen to me, for which I am endlessly grateful. Some experience sensory loss and shootings in hands and feet, I was spared from that too. For me it is 26 pounds up, learning to dress for that, and my back problems escalating to constant severe pain and a very restricted life. I am more and more thinking that my crashed being on a couch has to do with the cancer, chemo and radiation taking it’s toll on my already troubled body. And it actually gives me a little more understanding for myself.
- No, let’s not see each other in this room again!
My oncologist Birgitta and I went to junior high together, and it’s a coincidence that she is my cancer doctor. She has been such a safety to me during these six years and I am forever grateful to her for that. Thursday, when I met with her for the last time in her office, the patient before me didn’t show and she wasn’t stressed out and late. She showed me the scint and I could see for myself that there was nothing there. My skeleton was all white, not a single dark spot anywhere. We had plenty of time to go through the years and make a good closure. And she remind me that I had been fighting. I had been fighting cancer and won. That I was a fighter and a survivor.
I don’t think though that I will realize that I actually am a checked out for real until a year from now, when the spring will be uninterrupted when it comes to these matters. I know Birgitta would have let me continue with the check ups if I wanted to. Spread breast cancer usually first shows up in the skeleton, and the patients normally discovers it through pain. As I am constantly in pain, that’s not an indicator for me. Yet, I feel it’s time for me to let go. I am at a 15-20% risk for the cancer to come back. Which, I think, is about the same figure as anyone to be hit by this horrible decease.
My balcony door is open now. Fresh spring air visiting. A yellow Great Tit at the railing singing hello. And I am grateful.

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