Monday, June 11, 2007
Waiting . . .
Learning to live a normal life after a cancer diagnosis is challenging. There is such a desire to pick right up after the last chemo treatment and bolt back into a familiar routine. I had to learn to pace myself, allow myself time to heal physically, and adjust to a new routine. A routine that would include regular doctor appointments with a variety of doctors, adjusting to the side effects of a medication I still must take for 3.5 more years, and ongoing lymphedema and scar tissue issues. I’m not complaining. In fact, breast cancer has introduced me to people I would never have met otherwise, helped other relationships grow, and encouraged a somewhat more focused approach to life. In some ways it has made me fearless and in other ways fearful.

Enter fearful. Three weeks ago, after an extremely successful Relay for Life event, I awoke in the middle of the night with excruciating pain. I ended up in the ER and was admitted immediately. The pain in my lower left back was so bad that I who hates pain medication found myself cheering for the nurse who brought me favorite painkiller of choice. While awaiting CT scan results, I casually said to my sister, “What if they find something else?” This is not a thought I would have ever had before breast cancer. I would have been concerned about the pain, but never about what else might be lurking there.

I was feeling a little like Carnac the Magnificent when the doctor came in proclaimed, “You have stones everywhere, but more importantly you have a mass on your adrenal gland.” Who even knew where the adrenal gland was or what it does? Without even taking the time to register what he said, I started calling to schedule the follow up while I got dressed (after successfully passing the largest kidney stone – yikes!). By the time I got through to my primary care physician’s office, it had registered. I handed the phone to my sister who didn’t skip a beat making the appointment on my behalf while the tears silently rolled down my cheeks.

My oncologist tells me the chances are low it is a breast cancer metastasis. Somewhere in the back of my mind I flash back to several other doctors telling me that what I felt in my breast was not likely breast cancer because I was too young and it didn’t quite feel like cancer, not to mention the surgeon saying it didn’t look like breast cancer when he took it out. Rather than “wait and see” I am proactively having a slew of tests including a biopsy.

Truthfully, I am at peace with whatever this mass or nodule turns out to be at this point now that I am armed with information from a very skilled nephrologist. What I am not at peace with is knowing that this is my fate. Every bump, lump, mass, or nodule will always raise alarm, will always spark a round of tests and scans, and will always bring me to a place of uncertainty and fear. Some feel that it is good to get such thorough follow up and I agree on some level; however, once you have heard the urgency from some doctors and been prayed over and bear hugged by nurses who understand the odds of surviving multiple cancer diagnoses or metastases, you will understand the desire to run in the opposite direction . . . if just for a little while . . . .to absorb the reality on your terms and then move forward with the courage and grace you have had to learn from living through a cancer diagnosis.

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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