It’s that time again. Three-month check-up tomorrow. With each successive quarterly interval, I have found myself slightly less anxious. There is less of a sense of foreboding. I no longer see the designated date from weeks and weeks away, looming ominously on the horizon. It has become “sort of routine,” as I described it this evening. It is also still sort of scary and annoying as hell.
I had a CT scan over the summer and everything looked good, except they found a 4 mm “non-specific spot” on my liver. Of course when I first heard the news, delivered nonchalantly by my oncologist’s nurse, my stomach plummeted and I could feel the panic rushing through my body like wildfire. Soon after, I spoke to my doc directly, and she reassured me in terms that I could understand that it was really nothing to worry about , that she’d be “happy to keep an eye on it.” OH REALLY?? How nice of you.
No, I love my doctor. She handled the situation perfectly appropriately. For the most part, in the intervening months, I have been able to put that little 4 mm fucker out of my mind. Now, though, on the eve of my check-up, I am wondering what sort of nasty business it has gotten up to.
The drill is always the same, and totally familiar at this point. Check in. Fill out the forms. Sit and wait. Head back into the examination suite when the nurse calls me. Get on the scale. *SHUDDER.* Sit in the exam room. Strip. Put on the fucking paper gown. Sit on the table. Wait some more.
Greet Christina, with her forceful little handshake. Answer the questions: Any pain? Shortness of breath? Problems with your incision? Bowels? Problems urinating? Negative to all of the above. Get in the stirrups. Little bit of pressure. LOT of pressure. Everything looks good. Go get your bloodwork. See you in three months.
It’s all over in five minutes. I get dressed, feeling the sweat that has pooled in the crooks of my arms, is dripping down my back. I take a deep breath, and walk back into the world, to resume living.
In those brief visits, when I collide headfirst with the reality of my cancer and the new rhythms of my life, it feels like time stops. I enter this place where the only thing that exists is my body and its mysteries, its fragility. All of the things I have accomplished – all of the mountains I have climbed, all the words I have written, all the miles I have travelled – all of it melts away, and I feel like I am face to face, once again, with my own mortality, begging for another three months to continue living.
Right now, rationally, as I sit here, I know that I am well and strong and cancer-free. Honestly, the anxiety triggered by this latest three-month check-up is quite manageable. I have not been battling that sinking feeling that used to so often consume me for days when I thought about facing my doctor. Still, the irrational fears cannot be completely suppressed. The most recent incarnation has been triggered by the fact that I am suddenly aware, for the first time since going bald, that I can actually FEEL the wind blowing through my hair. My hair!! My fabulous hair! It’s getting long (relatively) and crazy and I love it. Realizing this, I quickly become convinced that of course now that my hair is back with a vengeance, I am destined to lose it again. I guess that’s the PTSD talking.
Just before sitting down to write, I watched the video I made of the week in Jackson. I needed a shot of love. I needed my FD family – to see us all out there, kicking such insane amounts of ass, climbing those mountains, doing those donuts. Seeing those images, watching what we did, feeling the love that we generated, filled me with this incredible sense of strength and resolve. It reenforced my sense of wellness. It reminded me that I can handle anything.