Getting started on the aftermath

I’m sitting outside of El Rio in the Mission doing the first Spill and Chill, a BAYS writing session in honor of Erin. We’re compiling stories into a sequel entitled “Aftermath.” All of us have so many stories of the aftermath of cancer—stitching our broken and scarred bodies back into a whole again, reconstructing our identities, confronting and denying and accepting death, seeking answers we may never find. The narrative of cancer is a long one. Some argue that the story really begins the day after surgery removes the tumor or chemo ends.

You’ll all familiar with my version of aftermath. The story still goes that I have not had cancer resurface in my spine.

After the fiasco with the MRI and then the ensuing PET/CT, my oncologist still wasn’t satisfied with the inability to diagnose my back pain and numbness, so she requested a spinal CT. I glossed over her concern, partly because I couldn’t deal with the alternative theory that these prior scans were missing something. When calling to make the CT appointment, I was classified as an “urgent”case, so they got me in less than 24 hours later. Cut to me:  getting an IV, passing out, and wimpering slightly in the dressing room afterwards. I don’t often have pity parties but that day called for it.

I was supposed to get the CT results within 2-4 hours of my test. The Jeopardy gameshow tune plunked around in my head…for 4 more days! My oncologist was out of town and no one else could deliver the results to me. Of course, my mind shook, rattled and rolled in all different directions. Those boxes I talked about in the last blog post came in handy.

The diagnosis is spinal stenosis. Yes, I know it’s super common and some people don’t have symptoms ever. BUT…why do I have this now? Why do I have what my 92-year old grandma had? My oncologist’s answer: it’slikely related to everything that you’ve been through. Those drugs and surgeries that saved my life are also fucking up my life. More specifically, the hormone suppression shot and pill that I take have likely impacted my bone density. The surgery that removed part of my back muscle likely caused me to develop muscular-skeletal issues.

Excuse me while I scream.

I know, I’m alive, generally healthy, yadda yadda yadda. I get it. But, Come. On.

I still have to go forward with both a neuro and an ortho consult to understand what’s happening, although I don’t particularly understand what could be happening beyond the current diagnosis. Again, boxes. The neuro consult will include sticking needles into my arm—although not in my right arm though to avoid the enhanced risk of getting lymphedema. It’s hard to keep all of this straight, and I get frustrated that I have to keep this straight.

So, I sit here at El Rio and sip a coldy and write in a circle of women who are living the aftermath with me.

And life moves forward, time passes. I go to work, finish my grants for 2014, make dinner, pull weeds, laugh with friends, take in art, play fetch with Whiz, support other women in BAYS, organize pictures from fall adventures and dream up new places to go. Speaking of, I might have some amazing news to share with you early next week. More on that soon…a teaser of sorts.



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