Meeting my First Oncologist
Rough. Rough enough that someday it might be really funny.
I sat in a waiting room (with view of a community infusion room) FULL of people twice my age. "You're an outlier" is the way Steve put it, as we sat there playing a dumb game on his phone where we tried to crush each other with our trucks (compliments of Cole). Bet nobody else in there was doing that.
The doc was nice - and bald - to be supportive? a handy joke? - it made us laugh. He explained that we can't really know why I got it, although my age and family history points strongly to a genetic component. He wants me to do a gene test that will indicate the likelihood of me getting breast cancer. Still processing that one...
With our permission (having second thoughts now), he shared the statistics of ovarian cancer survival rates for 1, 5 and 8 years. My intelligent response... "That's not very good." I know it's never wise to think of yourself as a statistic, but it's awfully hard not to in a moment like this. I'll work my way back out of this one in time.
As he proceeded to explain the chemo treatment, what I have been waiting for finally showed up on the emotional landscape. Anger. I felt trapped between "you're going to die unless you do this" and "when you do this, you will feel like hell" and "even if you do this, you will still probably die, just a little later on." I am not a fan of this story. Thank heavens there are other ones.
The anger (and underlying fear of course) started to crack my walls as his nurse then sat with us (into hour #2 at this point) explaining in detail every drug I would be given and every drug I would be given to help me not die from those drugs and every drug that would help with the side effects of the drugs that would help me not die from the drugs that would hopefully kill the cancer cells - oh, and a whole bunch of me in the process - which would all be done through this contraption (port) they'd surgically implant in my chest ASAP. As I sat there looking her in the face and trying not to cry, I just kept thinking over and over and again, "I want you to stop talking now." Talk about overload.
After a detailed explanation of how my hair would fall out, she strongly recommended I start looking for wigs now before things got too stressful. Now that's funny.
I couldn't turn off the part of me that always sees a better way to do something. Maybe someday I can work to create a much better version of new patient protocol in the world of oncology. Already got a few ideas. We finally got out the door after I was scheduled to start my first 5-hour chemotherapy treatment two weeks from today. After a good cry in the car and an even better cry on the drive home, I shifted into a much-more-calm and much-more-numb place which felt a whole lot better.
Cole and Cam were waiting for us at home. We told them about all the crazy things that are going to happen to me in the coming weeks and they were awesomely sweet and reassuring. Cam's best line after hearing my hair would fall out - "It'll grow back though!.....(really long pause)....won't it?"
Staring through glazed eyes at chemo hats for an hour online was actually a pretty good way to process, and my boys' occasional "that one looks great Mom" comments made me smile.
A few days to digest and then on to oncologist visit #2 next Monday. What a ride.