When I was first diagnosed with Hodgkins, I felt weird telling people I was sick. And I couldn't use the word cancer because it seemed wrong, like claiming a distinction I didn't deserve. Sure, sure, Hodgkins Lymphoma is a malignancy, but compared to breast cancer, or colon cancer, or worse, lung cancer or pancreatic cancer, it wasn't really a big deal. I mean, I'd spend six to eight months having an interesting and sometimes uncomfortable experience and then I'd be done. There were times during treatment where I would find myself thinking, 'this chemo stuff is so unhealthy, I shouldn't be doing this.' And then I'd catch myself and think, 'you idiot, if you didn't do this, you'd die.'
When Dr. Schnur called and said something had shown up on my CT Scan, I knew that it was Hodgkins, and I knew this time, I was sick. Well, I was half right. It wasn't Hodgkins. Technically, I was sick, although I didn't feel sick. But mentally I went places I hadn't really gone when I was diagnosed the first time. Now I can't shake the feeling. I walk on eggshells. I can't convince myself I'm not sick.
Part of it is that I have a persistent sore throat and fatigue. Or is that hypervigilence? (The politically correct term for hypochondria.) Maybe it's symptoms. Maybe it's anxiousness.
The four weeks I thought I was relapsing were hard. At first we were careful not to make too much of the news--the tests were preliminary after all. But I knew what the test meant. And I was pregnant with the secret I was carrying, just as I was carrying silent and secret disease. Then after the PET Scan I had to start arranging my life to a new reality. Emailing people and telling them. Changing the blog. Meeting with doctors and getting more tests and meeting with still more doctors. It simplified life down to one thing, a very important thing. I clamped a lid on my feelings. At week two, I'd go to a doctor's office and they'd take my blood pressure and it would be high (at least for me.) By week four, my blood pressure was back to it's usual low. I learned a lot about being a patient during the first bout and there was a familiarity.
And, of course, I was important. The center of a life or death drama. I wish I could tell you that didn't matter, but it does. An enormous medical establishment was moving to do tremendous things to and for me. Everybody wanted to talk about me. About my illness, my sedimentation rates, my pulmonary function, my plans.
Leaving this behind was both a tremendous relief and very disorienting. How do I explain to any sane person that I am celebrating and mourning?
It was a little like a bomb went off in the middle of my life. It's amazing how well things have been repaired. But I keep flinching at loud noises. The best thing so far has been work. I'm working on a freelance project and like all these projects, it is a drama of its own.