“Are you ready, Mrs Bere?”
Was I ready? I guess so. As ready was I was going to be.
“Okay, I’m going to slide you under now. If at any time you start to feel claustrophobic, let me know. I’ll be in the room the entire time.”
The technician slid me in and I was directly under what could only be described as a huge, flat, white board. It was twice the width of my body and twice the length. I felt like I was in one of those huge commercial iron presses that you see at the dry cleaners.
I was relaxed. I was sleepy. My oncologist had given me a prescription for something to help relax me. I was going to be under the “open” scan press for 2 hours. I did not want to take a chance. So I took the prescribed medication an hour before the test. As the test time got closer, I took another pill for good measure. I felt an odd sensation moving through my body. As if everything was moving in slow motion.
“Ok, Im going to lower the top down now. It will come very close to you but it will not touch you.” It started to lower slowly towards me. Closer, Closer. By the time it was finally in position, I was amazed that it was not touching my nose. It was positioned, literally, about 1 -2 inches from me. I smiled to myself and almost giggled. I thought that if it was one of my other siblings having the scan, who had inherited certain features from my Dad’s side of the family, it would be squashing their noses.
I had my iPod earbuds in and was listening to music. The night before, I had made sure I had a playlist that would last 2 hours. I wanted it to be a perfect playlist. Something quiet and soothing. I chose country. Not the rambunctious, fast paced tunes that I play sometimes while cooking. But the softer melodies. Mostly about loves lost and found. About the love of God and our country and of course, driving on country roads and summer nights and beer. It made no difference. I fell asleep within 10 minutes.
I had another scan a few weeks prior. That scan was also 2 hours. Bruce had driven me to the hospital. We drove in silence down to the city. Partly because of the early hour. And partly because we both knew that this was the big day. We would get the results before we left the hospital that day of whether or not my cancer had spread. The levels of radiation I would receive would ultimately be determined by the results of that scan.
He kept reaching over and patting my leg on the drive in. I was emotional and every now and then a tear would escape and roll down my cheek.
It had been an emotional roller coaster the past year. Towards the end of last summer, there were signs that something was wrong. I had suddenly started gaining weight. I was extremely fatigued. My good friend, Karen, suggested I go see her specialist about my thyroid. I did. And so my journey began.
“There’s something suspicious.” “We need to remove the mass. You need surgery” And then ~ “You’ll need a second operation.” ” You have stage 3 Papillary cancer.” “You need radiation.”
I remember going in for my first round of radiation. You go back to a special waiting room. It was filled with women of all ages. All waiting for their radiation or chemo sessions to start. I looked around the room as I walked in. I sat next to a woman and she told me she was 6 months cancer free. She was back for her 6 month scan. She told me that she was given little hope because of the type of cancer she had and the stage it was at. She had beat the odds. As my name was called I smiled at her and walked out of that room, knowing I would probably never see her again. Yet, I felt a bond with her. We both had the same look in our eyes. Was it the fear of the unknown? Was it a sense of peace that we both knew we were going to be ok? We never asked each others names.
I’ve been through my radiation. It was not what I had expected. Because my surgeries went so well and I had bounced back so quickly, I assumed the same would apply to the radiation treatments. It was not the same. I got very sick. Nausea overtook me for days and days.
My body reacted in a negative way. My face swelled up to the point that I took on a different appearance. It’s still swollen. When it first started to swell, I got very upset. Not because of my ego, but because I realized that it was the first time throughout this journey that I showed outward signs of being sick. That something was very wrong. Up to that point, the weight gain was the only outward clue that something had changed. Most people would probably look at me and just think. “Oh, she’s gained weight.” Today, my oncologist told me that it was a rare side effect. That it should go away in the next few weeks.
I received good news at the outcome of my scan last week. The cancer, while it is still present at the original site, has not spread. This is VERRRY Good news. Answered prayers!! The radiation in my body will continue to work on the remaining cancer and if all goes well, I should receive a very good report in 6 months. Six Months!! I can handle this. My Cancer did not Spread!
I will get my final report from my Drs. tomorrow. Neither they nor I expect any surprises. The real results came in last week. So after tomorrow, I will be sent on my merry way. To heal. To get my life back in order. To continue to get healthy. For things to return to normal. Except my normal is now a new normal.
My dear, dear friend Patti and I were talking about this a few days ago. She lost her son-in-law to Melanoma the past few years. We talked about how anyone going through cancer, whether as the patient or as the caregiver, does not really go back to “normal” afterwards. We are changed. I will take this experience and turn it into something positive. Just as Patti seems to have done. She is such an inspiration to me. She is one of the kindest and most compassionate people I know.
“Peggy, all done”
I slowly woke up. I was done with my scan. This was it, the final step for now. I looked at the clock and 3 hours had passed. They helped me up and guided me back through the waiting room to the dressing rooms. I got dressed , walked out and went to find Bruce who was waiting for me. He saw me and stood up. He has been my angel through all of this. For better or for worse. Through sickness and in health. We smiled at each other, he grabbed my hand and we walked out of the hospital together. Knowing it would be our last visit there for a while. Our normal is a new normal.