Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cancer and Happiness; Not Mutually Exclusive Principles

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." - Allan K. Chalmers

Note: Bright and early I wake up for a full day of tests, meetings, and preparation. Something to do: I'm making progress and moving in the right direction. A plan is in place and I'm pursuing it.

8:30am: Arrive at yet another medical facility for yet another test to get a true portrait of the situation. This time, it's an MRI of my chest and breast area. The concept behind this is that an ultrasound and mammogram can miss things. An MRI will show a much better picture and will allow us to be more at ease if it comes back negative--a negative read will suggest that the rest of the left breast and all of the right breast (surrounding lymphnodes included) are cancer-free.

On a side note: The receptionist was rude to me as soon as I walked in the door. She then demanded a "downpayment" of $465 just to do the test that day. When I asked, and I thought it was a reasonable question, "Don't you think a payment of this sum might warrant a phone call for a heads up? Just because I happen to be able to pay you $465 today, that doesn't mean everyone could."

Her response, in the snottiest voice she could muster, "It is THIS hospital's policy that a patient is responsible for knowing his or her own benefit plan. Your benefit plan requires a downpayment of 15%."

I looked at her with what I can imagine was a bit of amazement and retorted back, "Is it THIS hospital's policy that every patient who walks through the door should know the flat cost of an MRI off the top of their head thus allowing them to do the math to figure their financial responsibility and then do more math to figure the downpayment?"

She glared, but said nothing. She handed me my intake sheet and pointed down the hall to the sign that said "Radiology." She was sweet. We're doing lunch next week.

9:00am: They take me back for the MRI. If you've never had an MRI, you should be aware that it's not much fun. You must lay very very still and be subjected to very loud intermittant beeps and tones. They have improved the experience since I last had one though...I got headphones that looked more like earmuffs so I could listen to music. I couldn't hear it over the MRI tones. Oh's the thought that counts.

11:15am: Joe and I have a meeting at the Cancer Center with the oncologist's Nurse Practitioner, Brenda, to discuss all the medications that will be pumped into me and all the side effects that will come along with that. Additionally, this was our opportunity to talk about all the many things you wonder, but no one ever tells you about cancer. The truth about the hair falling out: Is it ALL the hair? Everywhere? The truth about my energy level...we'll leave it there. So on and so forth. We left feeling confident that our questions had been answered and that we would feel comfortable asking any more that came up along the way.

Note: Joe holds my hand through all of this. He takes notes, he asks questions, and he talks about "when I'm better." Something to love: Joe and his unending vow to be my rock through all of this.

1:00pm: Time for another test. Joe went back to work and I ran across the hall to the other side of the Cancer Center for my PET Scan. For this one, they inject you with radioactive fluid and run out of the room as quickly as possible, thus making me a little nervous about being injected with the stuff to begin with. I then lay there letting it filter all the way through my blood stream for an hour.

2:30pm: PET scan finally starts and takes about 20 minutes tops. Lots of preparation, very little time in practice. Very little effort on my part: lay there very still and the machine moves you in and out of the tube as necessary.

3:00pm: I finally get to eat for the first time that day. The PET scan requires that you not eat--best Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets I've ever had. Now it's home to get ready for the Britney Spears concert! Pussycat Dolls are opening and we're doing mexican and margaritas beforehand. A girl's night out is just what I needed!

Note: I head home to do my hair and pick a Britney-esque outfit with the promise that my MRI and PET scan results will be in my tomorrow. Something to hope for: Negative results on the PET scan and MRI. Negatives on both of those would mean that the cancer hasn't spread to anywhere else in my body and THAT would be amazing news.
Here I am with the girls at dinner before the concert in my most Britney-esque outfit. I even have one of those hats she always wears. Yes, that is a pitcher of frozen margaritas. It was a much needed night to unwind. This is prior to the hair cut. I was told that it's less traumatic when your hair falls out if you've cut it much shorter to begin with. I've been growing it out for the last year so I can do that wavy thing...dammit.

"Crises refine life. In them you discover what you are." -Allan K. Chalmers

As I'm faced with the greatest crisis of my life, I am discovering that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I have action. I have love. I have hope. And, I'm discovering that I have happiness despite having cancer. Cancer and happiness...turns out one really can exist even in the presence of the other.

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