I Took a Xanax and Didn’t Die.

I’ve heard someone describe a cancer diagnosis as like being on a roller coaster. Some days you are up, some days you are down, and some days you are stuck hanging upside down dangling at the mercy of a carny and his willingness to hit the release button. There can be no more perfect metaphor; this is exactly what it is like.

After we met with my surgeon, I was up. Like really, really up. Brian and I both felt super confident with him and really liked his bedside manner. He covered every one of my questions and then some. He was willing to talk with me as long as I would have needed. He was very honest; told me that this type of cancer does like to come back. It’s possible that I will face it again down the road but the odds of me dying from it are seriously slim. “It’s likely not going to kill you. You may need more surgery or treatment, but the cancer won’t kill you.”

My mantra after that meeting was simply this: It’s going to totally suck, but it won’t kill me.

Just as I could feel myself climbing to the top of the roller coaster, thinking I was about to enjoy the view from my sky-high perch, I began the descent. The fall was swift and I could barely catch my breath. I call it anxiety because there really isn’t another word that accurately describes it. It’s really much more than that. It’s a total and complete breakdown of your normal physiological and mental capabilities. My fingertips would tingle and go numb. Sleep was elusive. My head felt like it was buzzing. I lost three pounds in as many weeks. When I did sleep it was hard; not hard like a good sound sleep, it was hard as if every muscle was clenched. When I would fall asleep, the pain in my shoulders would jolt me awake. I would wake up with sore muscles and aching joints. I recognized often that I probably had not taken a complete breath within the past hour. My chest burned.

I rode my bike. I weeded the garden. I helped Audrey sew a mermaid tail out of a deconstructed lab coat. Yes, we did this. Nothing helped.

The cancer I have may not kill me but the impending heat attack I’m about to have certainly will.

I called my surgeon and he was out. My primary care physician is out on maternity leave. My GYN is out of Fridays. I called the scheduling desk at Baton Rouge Clinic and all I can say is that those ladies are total rock stars. I tearfully told her what was happening and she kept me on the line while she called every internist in the building until a human answered. She’d been in the game long enough and knew better than to put me through to a voicemail.

I met with a doctor I’d never met before which only ratcheted up my anxiety. What if he tells me to suck it up and be strong? What if he thinks I’m crazy? What if he thinks I’m doctor shopping?

He didn’t think any of that. In fact, when I opened my mouth to talk with him and only tears came out, he assured me that I really didn’t have to tell him anything. He was there with me and for me.

The truth is, I’m not a pill person. I’m not really a medication person. I’d rather not take anything if I can help it. My progesterone cream is all natural and I buy it at Whole Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a nut, I use bleach to clean my toilets. I’m just not a big fan of medication. Honestly, it scares me a bit.

But this is different.

Basically all of my panties are big girl size so I did the right thing and popped that fucker before bed. I silently prayed that I wouldn’t die. I mean, how bad would that suck? I’m happy to report that, in fact, I did not die, instead….I slept. I slept comfortably and relaxed. I didn’t sweat all night. My joints didn’t ache. Praise. The. Lord.

It’s Saturday and we had to get out of the house. I desperately needed to get out of the house. I wanted to go to the zoo but I didn’t want to be a wreck the entire time. I (somewhat) confidently took a tiny dose and we all headed to the zoo. I didn’t die. I had fun. I smiled. I felt normal. Something I haven’t felt in a long time. Every time I checked I was actually breathing; full and complete breaths. Despite my fears, I didn’t fall into the Koi pond or end up inside the monkey enclosure, either. I was a normal mother, a normal wife, on a normal trip to the zoo.

I’m still not sure that I’m a pill person or love the idea of medication. But, for what this has done for my quality of life (and not dying from it), all I can say is praise sweet Jesus, Mother Mary, and any and all of the Saints that had a hand in creating this tiny, round, miracle tablet.

Peace out. (Like, literally, I’m at peace.)

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Side.

“I just want to know. I can handle it, whatever the outcome, I just want to know. The waiting is the hardest part.”

Over the past few weeks I must have said this a thousand times to various people. I was sure that no matter what the doctor said, I would be totally fine, knowing I finally had an answer. In truth, the wait was brutal. An epic exercise in peace and patience. From 1:09pm on June 9th – 11:43am on June 20th I was like a walking, talking version of Schrödinger’s cat. Might be, might not be. All I desperately wanted was to be on the other side of the phone call.

The call came and while I certainly didn’t like the answer, at least I had one. I knew. My life was now all encompassed by the 99% certainty of eight, pap-stained direct smears interpreted by a pathologist. So why don’t I feel better?

While technically my wait for results is over, I am now faced with an entirely new wait. Here I sit on the other side of the call and I feel less certain, less secure, and less at peace.

I’m waiting to not feel crazy, however, under the current circumstances I don’t think this will get better. I laid in bed Monday night wrestling with my new reality and it hit me like a thunderbolt.

What if he gave me the wrong results??

That’s it! It made sense and seemed perfectly within the range of possibility. What if he was really trying to call Marilyn Lamont but dialed my number by mistake; and in a state of panic I just went with it? That would mean that Marilyn received my results that the biopsy was benign and I received hers! I feel bad for Marilyn. It’s going to suck so bad when she finds out that this was all a big mistake.

I’m waiting to get off this crazy train.

I’m waiting to meet with the surgeon. What if he’s a total goober? What if he doesn’t think I’m a nice person? What if he accidentally damages the nerves in my voice box and I can no longer speak? How can I live not being able to tell my children that I love them? Sure I can write it and learn sign language but they need to hear the sound of my voice! See what I mean?

I’m waiting to no longer feel afraid.

I’m waiting to know if surgery will be enough. I’m waiting to know if I will need additional treatment. I’m waiting to know if it’s in my lymph nodes. I’m waiting to feel secure. I’m waiting to feel like there is solid ground under my feet and I’m no longer tethered to the clouds trying to function like a normal person while I’m dangling from the sky. I’m waiting for certain people to do the right thing. I’m waiting to no longer feel scared.

I’ve read and often heard it said that of all of the worst that cancer is, this is the one that you want. Well, no one wants it of course, but because it is highly curable this would be the lesser of two evils. I get it, I do. But being on the other side of the phone call, I can tell you it’s not the lesser of anything.

I’m finally sitting right where I had longed to be and truth is, it still sucks. The wait is still there; I’m now just waiting for different things. All of this is currently unchangeable so I have to focus on the things that do make me feel secure; the things that do tether me.

My family is amazing. My mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law have been steadfast. I know that Brian cries a bit every time he hugs me lately and despite his fear and worry he is rock solid, compassionate, and always ready and willing to help slow the crazy train of my endless mind.

My friends have shown the greatest love and support and I am humbled.

My faith. I couldn’t get by without it. None of this makes a lick of sense but I’ll surely go even crazier trying to figure it out. All I can do is place this in God’s hands and pray that He will give me peace, cover my mistakes, and graciously forgive me when I yell, “Slow the fuck down!” to some lady while shopping at Wal Mart. Only He knows how human I am and eventually we all breakdown during a shit show. He also knows it’s OK because the bitch totally had it coming.

xoxo