A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Waiting Game

I thought after high school, I wouldn't ever have to sit by the phone waiting for a guy to call me. (Obviously, I was in high school ages ago.) But, here I sit -- once again -- anxiously waiting and wondering when the call will come in and what news it will bring.

This is the life of cancer survivors. We're always waiting for the results of a test. For answers to our concerns. For help when we need it. And we typically have to endure hours and hours -- sometimes days -- agonizing over a call.

I cannot begin to count the number of messages I've received from doctors' offices at 5 o'clock on a Friday, saying they have the results to my test...but, I'll have to wait until Monday since the office is now closed. Click. There is a special place in hell for these doctors.

If only they understood the torture they put us through in keeping us in limbo. Would it kill them to give me their cell phone? Just this once?

I am currently dealing with this situation as I wait for the orthopedic doctor to call me. Yes, orthopedist, not oncologist. Trust me, I do know the difference.

I had an MRI the other day, which revealed a torn meniscus in the back of my knee. This explains why I remained standing while the rest of the yoga class of 20-somethings squatted to the floor.

A simple surgery will fix it -- as if I didn't have enough surgery this year, why not go for more? But, the MRI revealed something else. Something that concerned the physician. There was a strange mass in my bone.

He assured me this wasn't unusual. I told him that I was a cancer survivor. He paused. Well, it could be a result of the chemo I had had years ago. Still, to be on the safe side, he asked me to call him a few days later -- which was today -- so he would have the full report.

So, I called. He wasn't available. Surprise! I left my office number and was assured he'd call me. I stayed glued to my desk all day. Until I had to run down the hall...just for a moment. When I returned 3 seconds later, there was a message light blinking on my phone. He called.

The message said: "I have the results, but I don't want to leave a personal message on your office phone, so I'll call you tomorrow." I immediately called his office back, but alas, he had "just walked out the door a few seconds before I called." He was unavailable until tomorrow.

So, now I wait. Again. I wait with my future up in the air. Do I have cancer in my bone? Or is it something else, something benign?

Let me describe for you, the typical mental exercise I go through when I find myself in this situation:

Cancer is back. It's spread to my bone. I'm going to die. I'm going to lose my leg. Please, dear God, don't let me die. And let me keep my leg. Deep breath.

You don't know it's cancer until you get the results, so calm down. I update my will, mentally. I reflect on how I'm living my life, spending my time. Am I living it wisely? Deep breath.

It's probably not cancer. He said it could be fat deposits, or damage from chemo. He's seen this before. Am I up-to-date with my tithe? Is there anyone I need to forgive? Is there unfinished business I need to attend to?

This mental exercise goes on sporadically as I go on with living life...not allowing my thoughts and fears to consume me.

Then, finally, mental exhaustion takes over. You have to come to terms with this latest potential crisis.

So, now after feeling like I got kicked in the stomach because of a suspicious marking on my x-ray, I take a deep breath and realize that also, once again, I will face whatever news I receive with as much courage as I can muster. Knowing that we don't live forever. Knowing that I've lived longer than so many people less fortunate. Realizing that I might be okay after all.

But I won't know that for sure. Until I get the call.

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