My Mom and I are sitting in the oncologist's office, listening to instructions on proper mouth care during neck radiation.
It didn't hurt to be fitted, but it was an unpleasant, claustrophobic feeling. I'm told I will get used to it. The mask is a giant leap forward for radiation treatments; in the not-so-distant past they would have had to tattoo my neck and face with 'X's to know where to aim the radiation.
It's such a strange feeling, this see-saw of unpleasantness and gratitude. On the one hand, I don't want to be here at all. I don't want an immobilization mask, or radiation treatments. On the other hand, I don't have to have my face tattooed. I'm consistently grateful for things that would have been unthinkable a mere two months ago.
I can't concentrate on what the nurse is saying about oral care. Before this appointment I handed the head oncologist a CD with my PET Scan results, and we're waiting for him to return and tell me how it looks.
"As you near the end of your treatments," the nurse says, "you will have what is essentially a bad sunburn across your whole neck. Here is a list of products we recommend to ease itching, soreness and wound weeping."
All I hear is 'wound weeping'.
She finishes up, asks me if I have any questions, and leaves. A few moments later there is a soft knock on the door, and the head oncologist comes in the exam room, closing the door behind him.
His face is unreadable.
"It's good to see you, Ellie," he says, still poker faced, as he settles onto a stool. There is an interminable silence of about ten seconds, which feels more like ten minutes, and then he looks at me and says, "So, your scan looked good."
All the air rushes out of my lungs; I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath. I'm so grateful I feel like crying.
"OH, thank you," I say, as if he had something to do with my cancer not spreading.
He starts going over my treatment schedule, but once again I can't concentrate. The scan looked good, the scan looked good, is running through my head.
It's a reality of life with cancer. It's the reality of life. It can always, always be worse.
I feel like the luckiest unlucky girl.