Friday, December 11, 2015

Scene Of The Cancer Crime, Or Adventures In Cancer PTSD

This happened this morning:

... and, from after the appointment:

I've had the same, wonderful oncologist since 1994, and I've had three separate cancer diagnoses. I've therefore spent an inordinate amount of time in her offices.

Her and her partners' large practice used to be in the medical tower adjacent to the hospital. I hated that office with a passion. Those hideous pink vinyl barcaloungers, aka chemo chairs, where I spent so many toxic hours. Plus the years and years and years of regular follow-up visits ("I'm watching you like a hawk because you were so young when you were first diagnosed," she'd always remind me), blood draws, false positives, difficult conversations, agonizing decisions... not to mention the super slow and crowded elevators.

And then, they moved! To a brand new building with much less worse interior design, lots of space, and most crucial for me, no traumatic history. All was sorta kinda ok for a while, even though the regular follow-up visits still brought up their putrid soup of anxiety, terror, anger, despair and other feelings that I had come to understand were "normal," post-traumatic-stress-style reactions to what had certainly been a series of traumatic events.

Then, my positive response to the new office changed with my second Cancer diagnosis... and a few years after that, my third. I now hate that place with a passion as well. I find it ironic that I am even saying this as I do not consider myself a "hater." Maybe there's a better word to use, but I am still so shaken from this morning's appointment that I am not going to even try and scrounge around my brain to find it.

I am still so shaken because I am shocked at what I consider to be the extreme level of my reaction. It is in no way shape or form proportionate to the reason for my appointment.

I realize though, that I have had a lot on my mind lately:

1. From the Paris Attacks to the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, to the San Bernadino shooting (to mention just a few) to the rise in popularity of fascist-style, xenophobic bullies and haters (the man with the bad hair - I am not going to dignify him with his name; the extreme-right wing party in France - ditto for them), the end of 2015 is a dark, dark place and time.

2. Closer to home: the death of Breast Cancer Advocate Maria Fowler in and of itself, and then, selfishly, the fact that it has coincided with my new and impossible-to-kick persistent cough. I've been running scenarios in the middle of the night.:
Ok, if, God-Forbid, I have Mets (Metastases, aka, Metastatic Disease, aka, Stage IV Breast Cancer), what do I do? Who do I tell? I can't tell anyone this time. I can't tell my mother. It will crush her. Where will I go? How will I support myself? I am not ready to die. I have so much left to do and I am really only just getting started, only just beginning to get some good momentum. Gaaaaaaaah!
It's exhausting to then have to sit with myself and remind myself over and over and over again that:
This. Is. Just. Stuff. In. The. Ether.
These. Are. Just. Thoughts.
This. Is. Not. Reality.
I. DO. NOT. HAVE. METS. (Fingers crossed. As far as I know. I don't want to jinx this. Gaaaaaaaaaaaah again!).

3. In three days I have to return to the office for the actual follow-up visit with my oncologist.

All of the above, plus the deep-down dread that has unfortunately become a permanent fixture of these follow-up appointments is likely responsible for this perfect storm of post-traumatic-stress misery.

And then I need to remind myself, again, that yes, again, my case is unusual. I have had Cancer three, yes, THREE times. If one diagnosis does something to a person—and, oh, yes it does—well then, the effect of three.... that math is beyond me.

And, I need to remind myself, yet again, to be kind to myself (why is it always so much easier/natural to be kind to others?), that, the sooner I allow these feelings to rise up and express themselves, the sooner, like a raging flash flood, they will pass.

All of this "I need to remind myself again" sounds like and feels like hard work, and, guess what.... it is. I don't like to think of myself as a complainer, but right here and right now, I am owning it. I am complaining, dammit.

*  *  * 

On the plus side, these responses to my two tweets warmed my heart and gave me much needed comfort:

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