My emotions have been up and down so much for the past couple of weeks.
The slap-in-the-face shock of the initial diagnosis, the dazed-and-glazed feeling of information overload, the slow-burn-panic of getting test after test, scan after scan, and waiting for results.
I can go from 'Yay Team We're Going To Beat This!' to knee buckling fear in the blink of an eye. It's exhausting.
There are moments of profound gratitude - deeper than I've ever experienced before - as I look into my kids' eyes and simply wonder at the beauty of their existence, of how truly lucky I am. Twenty minutes later I'm watching them play dress up together, giggling and worry-free, and I sink into a sadness so deep I feel I may never get out.
But, of course, I do.
Up and down I go, travelling this unknown road, and marveling at the unfamiliar sign posts; some are staggeringly beautiful, others fill my soul with fear. It's all so new.
I cherish the moments of sweetness, of peace. I don't care about mundane worries anymore, and there is a feeling of freedom in that. I spent ten minutes marveling at my son's long eyelashes yesterday, lost in my deep love for him.
That would not have happened before.
We had a couple of big decisions to make: (1) whether or not to have surgery to remove the secondary tumor in my neck (the primary tumor was in my tonsil and removed during the tonsillectomy) before starting radiation and chemotherapy; and (2) where to receive treatment - the world class cancer facility 20 minutes from our house that treats only cancer but that doesn't see many head/neck cancers, or the world class facility in Boston that sees only head/neck cancers, but will be difficult to get to everyday for radiation.
Today we consulted with a team of Boston doctors who work exclusively with head/neck cancers. I walked into that appointment feeling overwhelmed, lost and more than a little fearful and confused.
I left the appointment feeling lighter, hopeful, confident. I walked out with a plan. I'm always better when I have a plan.
Not only do these doctors and nurses really know their stuff, they are full of compassion and humor. The humor part matters to me. A lot. We talked for four hours like human beings, not like doctors talking at a patient.
I do not need surgery before beginning chemotherapy and radiation, which is great news. I was worried about what the results of my recent scans would show, and my chest CT scan was clear, so the cancer didn't spread to my lungs, which is where it goes after the lymph nodes if it spreads. I sent more than a few prayers of thanks up for that one.
I can receive a different type of chemo than I had discussed with the other oncologists; one that has side effects that are MUCH less stressful on my body. I won't lose my hair. I'm embarrassed to admit how much relief I felt when I heard that, but it's the truth.
I will need the feeding tube in my stomach, but not before treatment begins, like the other team had recommended. It will be put in about halfway through treatment, unless I need it earlier.
Thank heaven for second opinions. I'm so glad we took the time to get more information, that we didn't reject the idea of going into the city just because it's inconvenient.
And I realized something today, sitting in the exam room, chatting with the physicians. I'm adapting. Eight weeks ago I was so nervous to go to my primary care physician just to have a simple check-up that my blood pressure skyrocketed. Today I'm sitting in a room full of cancer doctors with no butterflies in my stomach. I'm even laughing.
I can feel it - the stretching and growing in uncomfortable ways. I don't like the pain, of course I don't, but I know that I learn the most when I'm stretching myself into places I don't like to go. I spent so much of my life in fear, and here I am smack dab in the middle of it and I'm okay.
The human spirit is a wondrous thing.