I am not a particularly patient person. (And before anyone suggests it, I am far too smart to actually ask the Lord to help me learn to be patient. Not gonna fall for THAT one! LOL) Having cancer pretty much forces a person to at least learn to accept that patience is indeed a virtue, whether you have it or not. The various treatments and tests and countless doctor’s appointments leave a person with no choice but to spend a lot of time just sitting around, waiting. Chemo can take hours to get, all while sitting in a chair in a room with others who are in the exact same boat as you are. If you’re at one of the larger treatment centers, this usually at least means that you have room for a companion to keep you company and a personal television to watch if that’s your choice. I went to the closest treatment center I could find, which meant we were all in a tiny little room that barely had space enough for 3 treatment chairs and a medicine cabinet. I’m not exaggerating here. It’s an incredibly small space. There is one television in the room that is on or off according to the whim of whoever gets there first. Which means you watch whatever they’re watching, too. I saw several episodes of Bonanza, along with a few days of the new “Let’s Make a Deal,” “The Price is Right,” and an assortment of soap operas.
Mostly I just hooked my iPad up to my headphones and listened to internet radio to drown out the TV. I’m not much of a fan of daytime television.
On a quick side note, KDH is building a new hospital up on top of the hill in Madison and the Cancer Treatment Center will be getting a new facility as well. Hopefully one that will give the nurses more room to work and the patients more room to relax during treatment. I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I am anything but grateful for all those who took care of me during my treatment. As small as the KDH treatment center is, everyone there is beyond kind and caring. And while the size of the current center does make it difficult if you’re hoping to have a friend or loved one present with you during treatment, that’s hardly a reason to refuse to go there. Hopefully the new center will make it easier for everyone; nurses, patients, and the doctor as well. It’s all due to be completed in approximately a year.
So, while I am not an inherently patient person, I have learned to tolerate the waiting. I have to say that having my iPad helped tremendously. It made it possible for me to listen to music, read, play cards, do crosswords, and countless other things while I was sitting there. Not to mention that I also use it to keep track of all my medical info. It’s one piece of technology that has made my life easier and more convenient. Love the thing!
I’ve said all this to get to the point that despite almost a year of having to wait for one thing or another, I’m still not a patient person. I get antsy when I have to wait for something. Well, I get antsy when waiting for test results. I’ve done plenty of this already. From the day my OB/GYN first found the lump right on up until now, waiting to get some test and then waiting to get the results has been an ongoing theme. I don’t really worry about what will be found. There’s no point in that. From day one I’ve trusted that whatever came, God would get me through it. (And He certainly has!) But I’m a person who hates not KNOWING what I’m facing. It isn’t that I think having knowledge will somehow change things, I just like being informed. I like knowing what’s coming, good or bad. I am certainly not one of those people who would be comfortable burying my head in the sand and hoping for the best. I don’t care if I’m facing a nightmare so long as I can go into it knowing what’s ahead. This is why I researched every aspect of my cancer until I was going cross-eyed from reading. It’s why I studied and read up on what the worst case scenario might be even before getting an official cancer diagnosis and stage. Having the info doesn’t change what’s coming, but it makes it easier for me to face it, I guess.
It has occurred to me that this could be part of the lesson I should be learning from this whole experience. Facing something WITHOUT knowing what to expect might just be the whole point. I’m sure God wants me to learn to trust Him fully, to rest in Him and not be so anxious even when I don’t have a clue as to what I might be facing down the road. I’m trying to do that, Lord, I promise.
Okay, back to the issue that has me thinking about this in the first place. I had genetic testing done last week to see if I carry the currently recognized genes that are tied to breast cancer. It must be stated that geneticists believe that the handful of genes that are currently recognized are merely the tip of the iceberg, meaning that eventually there will be many, many more that will be found. So even if someone tests negative with the current BRAC Analysis, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some kind of genetic anomaly. It just means that if you’re positive, then you have some serious thinking to do. I got the call yesterday afternoon that the results of my test are in. We weren’t here at the time and by the time we got home, they were gone for the day, so I had to call the office first thing this morning. My radiation oncologist – Dr. Eileen McGarvey, whom I really like – prefers to sit down face to face to discuss the results. On the one hand, this is what I love about her. She’s my kind of doctor, meaning she gives a lot of information about whatever it is she’s explaining to you. My surgeon – Dr. Amy Gefaldi – is the same way. Love them both! On the other hand, this means I have to wait until tomorrow to see her and get the results of the test. And so, here I am, feeling antsy and hyper and just wishing I knew what they’d found so I could know if I’m going to be facing more testing and/or possibly surgeries, or if I will just be doing the regular routine of preventative healthcare in the future. The anxiousness won’t change a thing, but I can’t seem to help feeling it. Here’s what I’m looking at:
If the test is positive, then I have to sit down and consider how I want to handle it. Being positive means I would be at a higher risk for not only another breast cancer, but ovarian cancer as well. That can be handled a number of ways. I could get more frequent testing, which would include regular monthly breast self exams and a breast exam performed by my doctor twice a year. The heightened risk of ovarian cancer would mean having ovarian ultrasounds twice a year. Of course these tests would be in addition to standards like a yearly pap smear and mammogram. These are what would be considered the most conservative options. From them we swing to the other side of the pendulum where we find more radical options. I could have a bilateral mastectomy, which would obviously reduce the chances of another breast cancer. Besides this surgery, I would have to decide on what kind of reconstruction I would want. More surgeries. And then there is the option to remove my ovaries, which would significantly reduce my chances of developing ovarian cancer. Significant meaning 75% to 90% less chance of getting it. Of course that means entering menopause for good, which would come with some issues of its own.
If the test comes up negative, that unfortunately doesn’t mean I’m necessarily off the hook. As I said, the genes that are tested for are just the ones which have been definitively connected to breast cancer. I could be negative for them and positive for one that hasn’t been mapped yet. Then again, the fact is that any one of us could be a cancer time bomb just waiting to go off. I’ve had it once, which means I’m more likely to get it again, but that’s not such a big deal when you consider that everyone is cancer free until they aren’t any more. Basically, cancer is like any other illness or accident or tragedy that might come upon anyone at any time with no warning at all. We can’t lock ourselves in our houses and hide. We have to just live our lives and take on the challenges when they come our way.
It would probably make things easier if I wasn’t always feeling so impatient. I see the doctor tomorrow morning to find out my test results. Between now and then I’m going to do my best to not stew on it. Like I said, it’s not that I’m worried about what I’ll hear. Either way, it’s out of my control. But I hate the waiting. I want to get on with whatever will be coming next. [sigh] While I won’t pray for patience, I will (and do) pray for peace and strength to not give in to my flawed nature. I’ll be back tomorrow to let everyone know what the results are and what the next steps will be. Until then, keep on trusting God. I know I will!