Friday, January 07, 2011

I'm back from the wars with... good news.

I was up early, my mom picked me up and we made the 1.5 hour drive in the dark to Mayo clinic in Rochester. Mayo is huge: a network of at least 10-15 buildings, and they kindly provide a detailed and easy-to-read itinerary by mail beforehand.

I get blood drawn, drop off a urine sample, then head to another building for a chest x-ray and then an MRI. Finally we get a lunch break (the tests and MRI had to be fasting, so by this time its noon and I'm starving) and then we return to good old Gonda 7 South (Mayo Gonda Building, 7th floor, south desk). This is the home of Urology at Mayo. I'm the youngest patient in the room, as always.

Here I change from street clothes for the 3rd time today into an ill-fitting and unflattering white and blue floral print gown, and get ready for the Cystoscopy. I'll spare some of the details. Imagine something the diameter of a pencil (with a small camera and light on the end) being inserted somewhere that most people (men and women alike) would not want it inserted. If someone gives you the option of avoiding this procedure, I would take that option.

On the plus side, I got to see live TV of the inside of my bladder. So that was kinda cool, if not relaxing at all.

Hunter also told me that I am the youngest patient he's ever seen with muscle-invaisive urothelial carcinoma (Bladder cancer, stage 3 tumor). I feel special.

At the end of the procedure, Dr. Hunter tells me that everything looks fine. The lab tests were clean, the X-rays and MRI were clean, the Cystoscopy looks clean. Great news.

As hoped, I'm in remission. Other than a check up in another 3 months, I can go away and stop worrying about the C-word on a daily basis.

I do have some lingering numbness on my inner thighs that Hunter says will likely be permanent, That is from the surgery where they removed 18 lymph nodes in the groin and left behind a bunch of staples. They look really cool on X-rays, by the way: little white lines scattered around my lower abdomen like sunflower seed shells. Al least I hope they're staples...

I also have increased ringing in my ears and some additional hearing loss -- both of which are likely permanent if they haven't come back to normal by now. That's from the Cisplatin that I was given during chemo, a documented side effect. The peripheral neuropathy (numbness in extremities) that I was feeling has faded so much as to be almost imperceptible. Sometimes my fingertips just feel *odd*. I can't really describe it any other way. Like they're waking up from sleep and only 97% there. And I think I'm a little more fumble-fingered than I was. My hands are a little weaker, and I drop things more often.

Of all, the hearing loss and increased tinnitus (ringing) bother me the most. A daily reminder of this ordeal, I guess. But, as Thompson put it today (making reference to the inner thigh numbness), "If that's the worst you're left with, its really not all that bad." Its true. My tumor had spread to Stage 3 (T3), which means that it had invaded the muscle wall. The very next stop on that particular express bus is T4 -- the cancer spreading to other organs -- which is usually thought of as the time when they start giving out life expectancies in terms of months. We caught it in time (just barely, it seems) and (also as it seems) completely. Pretty damn amazing.

I'll try to keep up with this blog as I'm realizing that there is an emotional and mental recovery component to this stuff as well that I was not prepared for. I spent so much time in crisis mode, just juggling several disasters one after another that I took no time to really process it all mentally. Not really, I don't think.

As a result of many things, the entire world fell apart for me emotionally the day after I got the catheter out (2 weeks after surgery). I cried for hours and was actually dangerously close to suicidal. Everyone hated me. I hated me. My dog hated me. I was a burden, a callous, a time-sink for everyone I knew, and a vortex that sucked in all the happiness in the world and turned it ugly. I was all of these things and I believed all of these things for most of a day. Which made no sense. I was done, clean, free, cured, loved and cared for. I have a great family, a great girlfriend, a lot of great people in my life. I knew I could have picked up the phone and called any one of 100 people and they would have come over. But I didn't. I didin't want to. I'd been too much of a burden already. I knew I needed to (or wanted to, at any rate) process it and get through it alone. I knew at the time that it made no sense. But emotions don't always make sense.

So I'm here, and I'm doing well. But I think my next stop will be to try to locate a support group. And if all else fails I'll start my own Gen X Cancer Survivors support group. Maybe we could all go do music bingo at the Chatterbox or something, rather than sit in some stuffy church basement drinking transparent coffee under fluorescent lights.

And yes, I will always think of the movie Fight Club, no matter what support group I attend.


Eclector2 said...

It is heartbreaking to read this, but thank you for doing so. I'm glad you have come out of that dark place and see that you are a beautiful person who is loved and valued. Many of us would come and be with you in an instant if you call.

I also appreciate your posting because we who are close to you have gone through our own emotional roller coaster of fear and hope and we are processing the aftermath too. We can all work out our emotions better if we do it together.

I had gotten used to checking in with you and seeing you often, but in the weeks after you were "cured" and picking up the threads of your life, I did not know what to do with myself. I had liked our extra time together, just not the reason for it, so I kind of went through withdrawal.

I know this is obvious but, this was a big event, a large moment in all our lives and it still reverberates, even as it is retreating into the back ground.

I speak for all who love you. We are here for you.

Love, Mom

Raymond said...

We can't understand everything you've gone through, but know that our energy and thoughts have never left you, and never will.

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