Sunday, January 16, 2011

Things Nobody Tells You About Having Cancer, Part Three-Hundred-Something: It's a Pain In The Ass.

No, really.

Cancer is a pain in the ass.

I read a little squib today on Discovery about how inhaling cigarette smoke was equivalent to having gene-changing chemicals INJECTED INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM HOLY SHIT OMG and immediately started wondering: If I sit at the bar, where I'm accustomed to sitting, at My Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant, am I putting myself at risk for Moar Oral Cansuh?

Oh....wait a minute. I like my burgers well-done. That would do it too, right? Because charred meat is a RISK FACTOR FOR CANCER OMG HOLY SHIT. Right?

What about my daily commute? Is that putting me at risk during the winter (more stress) or the summer (more UV exposure)? Am I breathing in fumes that might cause CANCER OMG WTF PONIES?!one?!

Getting away from the paranoiac fantasies in which Jo's Blonde Brain (oh, shit. That hair dye I'm using. Is Fekkai Golden Red a problem?) indulges, you get to the nitty gritty: scheduling.

Next week I have a checkup with the surgeon and a mammogram on the same day, which means that I can only meet Attila very early in the morning or later on in the day. I'll have to meet her late on Wednesday, because I have a prosthodontist's appointment at oh-dear-thirty that morning, which means that I really ought to meet her late on Tuesday, after the mammary-smush and sinus-probe. But that means that I'd have to meet her very early or very late on Thursday, when I have Random Scan Number One. If I meet her very early after two later workouts, does that mean I'll be unable to walk over the weekend, when I have to work? What about travel time? What if my molding appointment runs over? What, Frog forbid, if they've lost my paperwork at the Boob Smush Hut?

Oh, fuck. I just remembered that my surgeon changed buildings, which means that I'll have to pay for parking, or take a shuttle from the free parking to his building, but I don't know where the Boob Smush Hut is. Do I have to take another shuttle? Does the shuttle even *go* there? Would it just be easier to drive? Will I want to drive? What if I have forty-five minutes between appointments? I'll get hungry, right? So should I eat at County General or go get barbecue? Can you eat barbecue before a Massive Boob Smush? How early should I be there? Can I call them from work tomorrow and not stay on hold for 25 minutes like I did to make my appointment?

And does it all matter if I plan on tonight's dinner being chili and Fritos? I mean, should I just give it up and start smoking crack? Or are Fritos protective against DNA changes?

And what about that hair dye? I was going to dye my hair tonight, because I buzzed it off this morning after deciding that it's just too big a Pain In The Ass to grow out at the moment, and it needs a little something.

And so on, and so on. Mostly I'm not paranoid, but sometimes...sometimes, in the middle of the night, I'll get up and Google various symptoms.

And *that*, my fiends and faithful minions, is what makes cancer a pain in the ass. Even when you're healthy, you'll be presented with reasons to be paranoid. If you're going through treatment, it's even worse: the symptoms you have in response to things like chemo and radiation are nothing anybody should have to go through without a nursing degree. (Lara called me the other day: Is it possible to have an allergic reaction X number of days after chemo? Highly unlikely, I said, trying to be reassuring, because I know how fucking frightening things can be.)

Back at the beginning of all of this, Nurse Ames walked into my house to find me with my right hand shoved wrist-deep into my mouth and the kitchen and my shirtfront spattered, covered, streaked in blood. I'd popped a stitch, and the results were something out of a horror movie.

*That* is what having cancer--or having had cancer, or being on the mend from cancer--is like. A very minor thing that would normally bother nobody becomes, without anybody trying, a huge fucking OMG deal with ponies.

Tuesday. Tuesday. Tuesday I get my sinuses scoped. Tuesday is a very big deal, and a very big pain in my ass.


messymimi said...

Yes, you can eat anything you want before your boob smushing at the Boob Smush Hut. In fact, if you really want to cause pain back, eat something that gives you garlic breath, and make sure you use it there liberally.

Glad i don't have to have another smushing until next year.

Lurkette said...

Tell you what, going through chemo and radiation and all even with a nursing degree or two is not better. Even scarier, maybe, especially if you're not an onco nurse.

And googling symptoms? Yeah, I still do that. If I were sane, I'd stop.

Scheduling appointments - at the beginning it was like adding insult to injury. So many appointments, so much to coordinate and consider and if you're still having treatment, you just don't have the energy for all that. But you have to do it, so you drag your butt from one to the other. Then, pity the poor receptionist or tech who chirps "C'mon now - where's that smile! Attitude is so important!"

Jo, you are very, very skilled at putting this all into words that resonate with truth and compassion, the whole thing seasoned with humor. I hope that in a year or so, you will gather your CANSUH posts, expand on them, and write a book. You have it in you, and you owe it to the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Chill, puppies...ponies...flies on walls... Get the digital mammogram, ask the tech to walk you through each slide, ask for copies of your films so you can show all your friends, and relax. Yes, you had a rare cancer and yes, any reminder = freak out. Do not however, lose sight of a cool new medical test to learn more about and in truth: even of a lump is found and a biopsy requested, 8 in 10 lumps are NOT cancer. Breathe. Seriously, I have had a worse time getting a pap. Just don't get the suffering around boob smushing.
Walk, don't run, to your destination. Don't miss the joy.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Hang tough, Jo. Not promising it will get better yet, it may, but if not it will be different bothersome stuff next week. Maybe that’ll be good for a pleasant diversion ?~!

Thinking of you.

Elyse said...

Boob Smush Hut. Ha'hee... heeheeheeheeheeboobsmushhut!!! God I hope my next mammo isn't in a freestanding building or I will totally lose it and no one will know what is so fucking funny about their extremely slick and professional operation and will Be Offended.

girlvet said...

Maybe this is irrational, but I didn't get a physical for years because what if they found something wrong? What I didn't know wouldn't hurt me. And I'm a nurse. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.