Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Luckiest Unlucky Girl

My Mom and I are sitting in the oncologist's office, listening to instructions on proper mouth care during neck radiation.

I have just come from being fitted for an 'immobilization mask', which is a sheet of webbed plastic that is molded to your head, neck and shoulders to keep you completely still while the radiation is administered. 

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.

In the past week and a half, I have had four scans: one MRI, two CT Scans, and a PET Scan.   The PET Scan, which is used to detect the presence of cancer anywhere in the body, was Tuesday night.  It is the one I am the most nervous about; if cancer is found anywhere else I'm not sure I can take it. 

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.

And there I am again, on that see-saw of fear and gratitude.  I have stage four cancer, I will have to endure seven weeks of daily radiation and six chemotherapy treatments, and here I sit full of gratitude and relief that it is only in my neck.

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.

36 comments:

  1. Oh thank God that PET scan looked good. Thank. God.

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  2. Ellie, you are such an inspiration of hope to me in so many aspects of life. Love you my friend! If you are up for any visitors, let me know. :) xoxo - Kerry

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  3. That is so awesome you can look at all the positives! Good luck and keep up the great attitude!

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  4. You have the count the blessings as they come fellow warrior!!

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  5. What great news! Keep up the fight, Ellie. Thoughts and prayers.

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  6. What Maggie said. But the lump in my throat is overwhelming.

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  7. Oh babe. Praying and grateful with you. You are getting through it. That is winning.

    Steph

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  8. Worth weeping, this positive news.

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  9. Weeping with you. Thank God is right.

    xoxo

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  10. Thinking of you, Ellie. Always thinking of you.

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  11. Ellie, your ability to appreciate all the positives amongst the negatives is what will bring you through this ordeal.

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  12. Thinking of you, Ellie. Hope many more positives come your way.

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  13. so glad to hear the scan was good. Continuing to pray for you through this, lots of love to you!

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  14. prayers, ellie!! good for you!! that has been my favorite comment for years,...i count my blessings because it could always, ALWAYS be worse. <3 from charleston!

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  15. Thank God! I was holding MY breath while reading that one paragraph! Oh, Ellie, you're handling that seesaw with such grace!

    Thank you for sharing!

    Libby

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  16. I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I read "the scans look good".

    relief! happiness!

    prayers work.

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  17. I am so glad it hasn't spead. You are in my prayers. I hope that the treatments go well and the weeks fly by.

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  18. Thank God for the positive news! My little Natalie had a brain tumor ten years ago, and was fitted for the same mask. She did OK with the treatments. The medical people never sugar coat anything, and having your PET scan come back good is such a blessing! Take care, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Love,
    LuAnn

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  19. Dear Ellie,
    I am just a 'blog peep' who is praying for you!
    Shelley in SK

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  20. Holy cow you are one brave woman. You amaze me. Healing prayers and love to you always.

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  21. What a relief to know the scan looked good. Be strong, Ellie, you'll make it thru this miasma; sending love and energy to help you fight.

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  22. Love you stranger-friend-mentor. EVERYONE is reading and praying, supporting...waiting. We honor having this journey with you...endless gratitude. xxxxx

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  23. Hey, that is good news, Ellie! I have really been worried about that.

    I understand the not being able to concentrate, I wasn't able to either and later I wondered why the doctor hadn't told me some things or whether I just hadn't heard them.

    They told me the same thing about the sunburn, but I never seemed to have that problem, no weeping sores. What I didn't remember them telling me was that I would be sunburned where the light never shines dispite their best attempts to miss the colon. Humph, try putting suntan lotion there :).

    When will you start your radiation? Are you having to go to Boston or are they able to do it locally? Oh Ellie, I have so many questions and so much to say and there just isn't room to type it all in this com box.

    Enjoy the weekend, I will be thinking of you.

    Hugs,

    Mike L

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  24. love this perspective, love what youre learning, what youre learning about you, and what youre teaching us. Thank you. *HUG*

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  25. Ellie - ditto the Thank Gods. Keep talking about it. we will keep praying. Joanne

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  26. Ellie -
    Thank you for sharing this and so much else of your experiences here ... experience, strength, and hope ... it's all important. You are teaching me so much.
    Lee Ann

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  27. the luckiest unlucky girl is an amazing way to put it.

    you're in my prayers.

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  28. Beautiful post, Ellie.

    One of my favorite reflections on luck is Joan Armatrading's "I'm Lucky:"

    "I'm lucky ... I can walk under ladders ... yes, I'm so lucky that I'm as lucky as me ..."

    There is so much to be grateful for. Keep pulling yourself back to that good place. You can walk under ladders.

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  29. Oh Ellie. Yay for the PET scan. I hope the good news continues. You are in my thoughts and prayers every day. Hang in there.

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  30. The title says it all, Ellie.

    I've been close enough to where you are to understand, and to get the whole mix of emotions.

    As I deal with some of my old stuff, your bravery is inspiring, and helps me to remember how to move forward. I'm guessing it is doing that for many. Thank you.

    Sending, as always, wishes for peace and ease through your journey, and love to you.

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  31. Oh Ellie this is GOOD news, praise God you needed it! I'm praying xoxoxo

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  32. I don't even know you but I am praying for you and checking back often for updates. Your insight into your feelings about this diagnosis and journey through treatment is amazing. I am a dietitian and used to work with head and neck cancer patients going through treatment. A feeding tube is not the best thing in the world, but it's certainly not the worst -- and the best part is -- it's totally temporary. Once you can swallow safely again - it's removed and you go back to loving every bite!!! Bless you.

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  33. My mother has been radiated (lungs and then three bouts with skin cancer) and those products do help with the charring; they comfort an area that's going to look and feel pretty angry. I have faith in you, Ellie. I know you'll get through this with grace.

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  34. Wow, just a few years ago my sweet friend had tattoos. Lots has changed.

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