Thursday, February 16, 2012

Six Month Madness

Yesterday was John’s six-month oncology visit. As before, I am unsettled for the few days before then very calm the day off. Prayer pays off. This time it was blood work, the poking and prodding, the euphemistic avoidance of talking about any bodily functions.

I feel like an old hand at this. But still I feel the anxiety in the air in that strange waiting room. There’s a sense of who is new and who is a regular and those that are back again.

The test results were mixed. Fine, passing fine and “we’ll have to see”. It takes at least five days for the “cancer marker” to be cultured and read. So now I really feel some worry. Funny name, “cancer marker”. I imagine a cartoon thermometer that has “You Gonna Die” at the top and gradations of life and pain along the way up. It’s really a protein test that signals, “more tests needed” but that name: Cancer Marker.

Here’s the hard part. When we get to this place each time (or when his cough won’t go away, or bathroom breaks take too long, or when he is tired and my imagination goes right to Big C—Part II) I have a kind of selfish dread that is hard to talk about.

When John’s cancer adventure began we were so caught off guard. He was in good health, we were newly weds, life was good and the cancer process came on so hard and fast—doctors and surgeons and hospitals and chemo and pumps in the night and emergency buzzers going off and learning to insert all kind of things in all kinds of places. It was fear but there was also so much adrenaline that overran thought or process. He did it, I did it, we went thru it. We ate all the lasagna and returned very dish. I cried a lot but mostly I had a big-eyed stare and a Doctor Sardonicus grin stuck on my face. It was new and we had no choices. And neither of us knew how hard it was going to be. It was one day at a time for 15 months.

But now, looking back I am horrified by the cost and the pain and how we both ached thru that process, so when I think, “here it comes again” it is worse. Now I know what chemo means for colon cancer and what it means for both people to live day and night with that FU pump and the sheer grief and logistics of it all.
Neither of us had time to tell anyone how much pain we were in—shared and privately. It’s taken this long to be far enough away from it to really tell each other.

So when we go back to the oncology center I have the terrible thought: Can I do it again?

Those are the caregivers I feel for. The new ones have a kind of shocking adventure race to run but the ones coming back again and again also have the shame and pain and grief of the silent question, “How can I do this again?”

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