Friday, November 12, 2010

Yeah, well. Okay. Er.... .... ....Now what?

That was fast.

In a little over two months, I went from "I might have cancer" to "I have cancer" to "I had cancer."

I had cancer.

I HAD cancer.

I had cancer. Then I had surgery. And, because my surgeon absolutely kicks ass, I now do not have cancer any longer. There's a ten percent chance it might come back some day--fifteen percent at the outside--but that still leaves me an eighty-five percent chance, at worst, of not ever having this cancer again. If somebody told you, "Look, the *least* we could offer you would be an 85% chance of being cured for good," wouldn't you take it? I know I will.

What I have right now is a huge hole in my head and no time off available at work. I have debts to pay--thankfully, none of them is out of reckoning--and muscle mass to rebuild and an obturator to get used to. I have rehab to finish and speech to relearn and swallowing to perfect. I still have post-operative slough to rinse out of my head every night, but that's lessening considerably as the days go on. I have jaw muscles that are responding very slowly to Flexeril and a stretching routine.

I've also got anxiety attacks. For some reason, they started about a week and a half ago, just as I was pulling out of the Lortab-induced fog I'd been in. I don't know why they didn't start before surgery; Beloved Sis has the theory--and I think it's a good one--that I'm suffering from some form of PTSD. Somehow, everything worked itself out in such a way that my anxiety over matters could reach a peak with every new development, and now that I don't have any new developments (except not having cancer), the anxiety is free-floating and looking for a place to land.

I have grief. The tumor somehow was smaller in person than it looked on any of the scans that pinpointed it. Don't ask me how that's possible. I mean, this particular tumor is quite susceptible to immune function; maybe we all did something right. I can't explain it logically, but again, I'll take it.

But that means that I lost a whole lot more of my mouth than I probably needed to. Don't get me wrong: I am not complaining in the least. The trouble with low-grade tumors is that they don't respond well to things like radiation; therefore, getting it out with good margins was exactly what I wanted. I told Dr. Crane that I liked aggressive, that aggressive was good, and I'm happy with the results....

......but I miss my uvula.

I have a whole community of new friends thanks to this. People who have rare cancers tend to really stick tight to each other.

I have yet another second chance. I've gotten so dadratted many of 'em, you'd think they'd've worn out by now, but here's another one.

For now, all I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. These next few weeks may be harder than the last few, as everything gets shaken out into the new normal. All I have to do is get well, and get strong again, and get used to breathing past a plastic plate.

Later I'll integrate the Old Jo, the New Jo, and the Jo that had cancer for those months. Right now I'm going to eat and rest and watch some Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes on Netflix.

12 comments:

danielle said...

Blessings! I am so relieved and so happy for you....of course you are suffering form some type of PTSD - this has been a very traumatic time. Plus grief - remember all the stages of grief and how you can bounce back and forth between them?

Celeste said...

I hope the scanning equipment will only continue to get better over time. You and the docs did the best you could with the information you had to go on. I totally understand your position; the pathology report would make anybody grieve.

I hope you can meet the deadline you need for healing vs. work return. But looking at how far you've come, I'm guessing you'll make it work somehow.

Anonymous said...

And if you would like to see a contemporary Holmes, which ran on PBS the last three weeks, but you have had one or two other things on your mind, the three episodes are still temporarily available to watch on line:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/sherlock/index.html

Anne

Anonymous said...

Here's my unscientific theory re: your anxiety in story form:

Once, my mom went into anaphylatic shock in the pharmacy. I was only 16 but calm and collected even as the pharmacist freaked out and ran away. Mom was so hypotensive that she couldn't even sit up and I just keep hoping she wouldn't lose her airway. Now, once the paramedics got there and the whole situation was not entirely on my shoulders - THAT'S when the post-adrenaline shaking started.

Perhaps your situation is similar - now that you're out of survival mode the fear has wormed it's way in.

Perhaps you can think of your obdurator as a "purple heart" - that's what I do with my surgical scars.

me said...

The hardest thing to do is to be patient with your healing self ~ and I think it is especially hard for us nurses.

Hell yes to the PTSD ~ I agree with the Anon. directly above ~
Be gentle with yourself ~
We've got your back.
Hugs ~

Cr0w$c@lling said...

Jeremy Brett is the quintessential Holmes for me. However, you have to check out Sherlock" on PBS. I believe they're still streaming the 3 episodes for free!

-luctain

messymimi said...

Among all those other things, you get to go back to your first love, and what you are so good at, being a great nurse.

I, for one, am very, very glad of that.

Jenn said...

I totally understand the anxiety hitting now. You were focused on getting it out, done, and over with. Now that you can say you HAD cancer, your brain is trying to understand and play catch up to what just happened in those two months. It will take time to process, so I say in the meantime remember to be happy about at least one little thing each day and eat dessert first.

shrimplate said...

This is good.

The anxiety might be with you fo a while (like forever) but it can be easily medically treated.

TheSchaft said...

What you have IS a form of PTSD, and for the reasons folks have stated above. My wife died in August of a hemorrhagic stroke - gone within 24 hours - and I'm still trying to deal with the "new normal" of being alone. Once the outside activity went away - getting the house and finances straighteded out, getting the insurance done, etc., there was/is a time when your brain is trying to assimlate WTF just happened.

It will take some time for it all to integrate and become really normal-normal, so just try to float with it as best you can.

Like a lot of life, this is just temporary, and will change over time.

Cr0w$c@lling said...

I developed fear of heights and anxiety attacks after my brief cancer scare. Still not comfortable as I was with heights, but the anxiety is almost non-existent.-aentist

Crazed Nitwit said...

I think anxiety attacks are completely within the psychological guidelines of your experience. That said, I'm sorry. Anxiety attacks suck. I know.

I mourn the loss of your your uvula. Your ability to wake up every day feeling just fine. The loss of your security that you are fine.

You're doing well. Hugs.