Going to the oncologist

This is a visit I generally dread. Not that I don’t like my oncologist – I definitely do. But I always feel like I have to wade through a bunch of other sickly people and the smell just reminds me that I too am very very ill. Which I’m starting to resent more and more.

So Monday’s blood analysis has my numbers floating in the same areas before – a little on the low side, but I still feel strong, mostly, and have been doing a lot more work and have even been to the office. Although this weekend, I started feeling a little more sluggish than usual. I was enjoying lazy mornings in bed but I think it’s something else. Depression was one thing that came to mind. And then on Sunday, I realized it could be something else … something that Monday’s call with the oncologist started getting me worried.

“The machine says that 3% of your blood looks funny,” she told me. She was sending it off to the pathologist for further examination and that we would discuss the results at my regular appointment with her on Wednesday. Of course this whole day, the suspense has been killing me and I called the office to see if the pathologist’s report came back yet, but I did not reach the oncologist and she didn’t call me back this evening.

Naturally, my worst-case-scenario paranoia has kicked in and I’m pretty sure that what I’m going to hear on Wednesday is that after months of the Leukemia not showing up in my blood, that it’s finally re-asserted itself. Which, in turn, will most likely mean another return to the hospital for yet another round of chemotherapy – the dreaded double dose of Ara-C.

Whatever it is, it has to wait until after the weekend though, all other things being equal. First, I’m expecting a furniture delivery on Wednesday so I can start to feel like I have a home (though I don’t know why since I’m hardly going to be around to appreciate it), but, more importantly, Voodoo is coming down for a visit on Saturday and I really don’t want anything to interfere with that.

I’ve been reading a lot about the upcoming transplant procedure from a thick booklet the oncologist gave me at my last visit. I’ve also been doing my own research on the procedure and have been reading other Leukemia patients’ blogs who are going through transplant now. The process sounds absolutely gruesome and I have to admit that it terrifies me. I’m at the crossroads of not willing to stop living yet, but I just don’t know how much more of this I can endure.

I’m trying so hard to be strong for myself, for my family and for my friends, but lately, that’s been breaking down. And I think my general malaise and sloth are indicative of minor depression. Given the circumstances, I don’t think that’s unreasonable and on my call earlier today to the oncologist’s office, I asked if they could refer me to a therapist with a specialty in working with Leukemia patients.

So I’m trying to do the right things. I read recently that minor depression during the transplant process – before, during and after – actually reduced mortality rates from those patients exhibiting no depressive symptoms. At first I was shocked at that result, but then started thinking that if people are completely emotionally detached or can’t confront their emotions on something like this, there could be a deleterious effect on the body. So maybe confronting those emotions is the right thing to do.

But I am profoundly sad and scared. I cry that I just want to be better – not get better because the process of getting better scares me. I just want to be better. But I know that’s unrealistic, and I find little solace in the fact that the G-d awful process to come will get me there … eventually. It’s a very long road and it’s fraught with uncertainty, risks and dangers. I don’t want to scare anybody who reads this – I’m scared enough for us all (as is my mom, no doubt). But I just had to get this out here.

Maybe it’ll be cathartic. But in all my readings on this disease, I know I am experiencing the two things that I have always had problems with: accepting the loss of my dignity and autonomy and having to ask others for their help and support; and, two, being able to graciously accept it. I’m working on both, but it’s like I have so much to work on, I don’t know where it all comes from or how to keep it all together.

Your emails, cards, visits, calls all help – even if I can’t write back to everyone. I am very humbled by this experience and I wish I could be a better person as a result. I thank you for all your love, compassion, understanding and support. It means more to me than I could possibly ever try to explain. But please know, that even in the absence of me saying it to everyone all the time for all of the little things and all of the big things, and all of the things in between, that I do love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul.


3 Responses

  1. Dave and I love you too. We are confident that everything is going to go great with the transplant! After that, I fully expect that we will have you out here complaining about how flat the Midwest is, and about how some river always seems to be flooding, and about how far we allegedly are from civilization.

    Give Voodoo our best this weekend!


  2. I am no expert. But it seems to me, the strength we pull out of ourselves, seemingly from nowhere…or who knows where, is the most important kind of strength we have.

    i love you.

  3. Just take it one step at a time…just try to stay in the present, and find one good thought every hour and then again the next hour… and so on. Rent a funny movie, delve into a trashy novel, take your mind on a vacation from your daily routine with whatever soothes your soul.

    it is great that you can express your fears, I believe that study you mention is right, repressed feelings can make even the ‘healthiest’ of people ill. But I like your idea of seeing a therapist and to some degree I am surprised some kind of “crisis” support person was not already part of your team…perhaps you may need an anti=depressant…just to take the edge off…because with all the drugs in your body your system may just be out of whack and what you are feeling may be chemical in nature which then could be exacerbating, your fear and anxiety.

    But more importantly don’t give in to it. As you say, you know see how many people love and adore you and you need to ask for help, guidance and support in whatever way you need it…and check your ‘ego’ out the door…so the apparent loss of autonomy is a mere opportunity to share in the love of others…think of this as a blessing as you give folks the chance to support you in your time of need…they’re doing a mitzvah!

    I love you, I am here for you, call me if you need a cheery voice and a joke.
    in fact go to you tube…search for johnny depp Last fast show….that should give you a real chuckle

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