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'The Drill'

"The Drill" - cancer survivors know it well.

I hate not knowing. I hate everything about uncertainty. And I hate waiting most of all.   

Unfortunately, waiting is what battling cancer is mostly about. 

Waiting to see the doctor, waiting to hear test results, waiting to find out if those test results will result in a biopsy, waiting to find out if the biopsy is cancerous….the wait just never ends.  

One would think that battling cancer would have taught me patience, but in reality, all it has taught me is "The Drill."  

I know The Drill.  Whatever medical test you are doing is precautionary; and the test often comes back with questions or ‘concerns’.  Somebody doesn’t call you to reassure you that it’s probably nothing - even the doctor who read the initial test said so, but you don’t know this or hear this.  

Instead, you get a call out of the blue; a disembodied voice from an unknown and ominous-sounding testing facility.  The voice is saying you need to schedule an appointment for yet another, more complicated test.  For a second, you go blank and you mentally free-fall. 

Oh boy, do you know this feeling.  This is precisely how you felt when you first heard you had cancer, wasn't it?

This is followed, in short order, by a flurry of frantic phone calls, usually to the oncologist's office, wherein you try and get answers that nobody has.  

Then? 

More waiting. 

Finally somebody gets on the phone and forces out words of patience and caution.  Don’t worry, the voice says; it’s probably nothing.  The voice tells you to wait and see.  

So, then more waiting.  Waiting for the next appointment.  Smiling politely when the technicians all tell you not to worry - the more complicated test is strictly precautionary, etc. 

God, but you have heard this before.  Still, you try and listen when they tell you that nobody gets both uterine and breast cancer in a two-year period.  It’s so very likely a fibroid, you repeat to yourself, that it actually becomes your mantra.  It will turn out to be nothing; nothing at all. 

And yet, in your head, in the face of the tsunami of logic and reason, all you can hear is that little voice saying back to you, “Yes, that’s what they said about me getting breast cancer in the first place.” 

Cancer taught you that anything is possible - odds mean nothing.  So, you do the next test. You suck it up.  You even get all the veins in your ‘good arm’ blown out by some well-meaning doctor who clearly hasn’t stuck someone with a needle in 30 years.  Your arm looks like somebody chased − and caught you − with a hammer.  Black and blue up and down the length of your arm and you think, wow, my arm never looked this bad during chemo, and I never even had a shunt.

Then it hits you - the "good arm" is blown and if the test results come back with bad news, you don’t even have a "good arm" for the surely necessary surgery IV.  Crap, you think - how long will I have to wait for all this to heal?  Tick, tick, tick - in your head the clock is already ticking, and the cancer already spreading.  

Or will they just ram an incredibly painful needle into some deep tissue vein in my leg and cut me open anyway?  You try and shut down the screaming panic, the rabid fear inside your head.  If only for a moment.  

Then, because you have so much free time on your hands, what with all the waiting, and because panic is supremely exhausting, you give in. You digress.  You realize, if only for a second, that you are being morbid and totally paranoid and you take a prudent mental step back.  Worse case, you think, a fibroid biopsy won’t require being put out and therefore you won’t need an IV, they can biopsy you anytime while that poor, beat-up arm heals. 

Because you think like that when you have fought cancer. You really do.  Your body becomes nothing more than a flesh and blood map; a muscle and skin, tissue and organ strategy for getting rid of what you are totally convinced is more cancer.

And this even after you have combed all the cancer survivor web sites and blogs and survivor postings and you know, you truly do, that all the bulletin postings of cancer survivors who have gone through the very same ordeal, they all seem to have come out of similar situations cancer-free.  Oh sure, one or two had a D&C, a couple of others had their meds changed up, one woman with long term "plumbing issues" even had a hysterectomy, but still…overall, you cannot find one single posting of somebody who suffered what you are sure you are going to suffer -  another form of cancer. 

In the middle of this extended wait-panic, panic-some-more period, you find a crusty red spot on one of your legs and know, JUST KNOW, that it’s skin cancer.  You rush to the dermatologist who tries to assure you that it is likely not skin cancer.  Yeah right, you think.  You don’t care how it looks, you ask three times for a biopsy but only because you don’t yet know how painful that particular procedure is.  The doctor is nice, however, so he does the biopsy.  Then he tells you with humor, not to be so paranoid; that you have nothing to worry about with respect to the little crusty red mark on your leg, and asks you to call him next Monday so he can tell you if the little crusty patch, now bleeding profusely, needs to be burned off. 

Apparently, the "cure" for ordinary skin cancer is quicker and less painful than the actual biopsy.  You truly wish you had known that before you demanded the biopsy.  And you honestly wonder why he didn’t just burn the dang thing off on the first visit.  Your leg is now wrapped in layers of gauze and cotton.  You had no idea one tiny spot - about the circumference of the average drinking straw on your leg - could actually bleed so much.  The needle must have been the diameter of a cannon, you think, as you fish out your black tights from the bottom of your sock and hosiery drawer.  

Meanwhile, you are right back where you started from - this familiar caught in the middle of your non-life, on the verge of panic, trying not to freak out, trying more than anything else to remain rational and calm and reasonable and all because?

You are back to waiting.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jan G October 15, 2011 at 09:52 PM
after fighting for over two years now, i certainly can relate to the panic & parania. its like a bad roller coaster ride, & non of the bumps are fun. After finding out it spread to my lymph nodes after a hysterectomy, every day is a blessing, & somehow it's cursed. Everyone looks at you like stll here? You are fearful & distrust this "chemo" thing which will surely kill u faster. You try natural cures. You're still here, scared, dying, enjoying the moment, cursing its certain disappearence Just waiting....
Julieanne DiBene October 19, 2011 at 12:03 AM
I understand completely but I want to urge you to keep fighting the good fight! --- Julieanne

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