I’m back on it now on a dose hopefully more suited to a woman of my size. At my appointment on Monday, my oncologist said brightly, “So did you enjoy your long break from chemo?!?!” “No,” I replied glumly. “I would much rather be on it than off of it.” I don’t think he quite understood. Probably because he didn’t have to see me during any of the four extra trips I had to take to his office to get my blood drawn and see the nurse to get a white blood cell production booster shot. The people at the lab now know my name, and they now ask me while they’re tying the tourniquet, “Do you have any blood left?”
Aside from the inconvenience, there’s also the nagging question that is never far from my mind when i’m off chemo: are the tumors growing?
Can I even be trusted to answer this question?
My mother thinks I can. This morning she asked me point blank if my tumors were growing again. It struck me as a funny question to ask. What do I know? I had cancer for most of my life and didn’t know it. And even now, i’ll bet even the most positive and rational cancer patient probably convinces herself at one point or another that her cancer is growing again…even if it’s not. I have not been feeling very positive lately due to the fact that the healthy part of my body doesn’t seem to like the chemo i’m taking, so I said, “I think they are.”
Of course, my doctors don’t care what I think. They care about tumor markers and scans. Particularly the oncologist I’ve been seeing. I told him that the new-ish pain in my side has been getting worse. He said, “Well you have a lot going on in your abdomen. That’s probably from your surgery.” “Really?” I said skeptically. “My surgery was two years ago. This is a new pain.”
My old oncologist, who I saw today, was a little more sympathetic. “Do you take anything for it?” “Just Tylenol sometimes.” “Does it work?” “Sort of.” “Do you want something stronger?” (“Noooo…” I said reluctantly. “I don’t think I really need it.”)
Even though he didn’t dismiss it, he also didn’t throw open the door, call the hospital, and scream into the phone, “Lindsey’s tumors are growing!!! Quick–stop them!!!” After all, doesn’t cancer command a sense of urgency? Not my cancer. My cancer grows slowly. There’s no chance it will get out of hand while we wait to see whether the chemo kills bad cells as vigorously as it’s killing good cells. Instead he said, “If your tumor marker has spiked and your pain continues to worsen, that’s a reason to get an early scan.”
There is still a chance that the little white pill i’m taking again before bedtime is quietly doing just that. I hope.