Cancer is Crap: Losing My Marbles in The Hope-Fear Continuum
By Leanne Coppen July 3 2017
November 17 2009, 12:26 PM
On Friday I had CT scans of pretty much everything but my arms and legs to check the stage of my lumps and bumps as compared to three treatment cycles ago (that’s just over two months ago). We’ll get the results Thursday morning, when I go in for my regular clinic appointment.
Normally a head scan wouldn’t be included but I’ve been having some dizzy spells and frankly they’re freaking me out a bit.Despite my best efforts, the words “brain tumour” crept into my mind like sneaky little spiders leaving clingy cobwebs of fear behind. Reassuringly, my oncologist said that the problem is more likely related to circulation (it mostly happens when I stand up or get out of bed) but since I have a pretty good record of reporting symptoms that turn out to be indicators of disease progression, she’s not messing around. She tagged an “urgent” head scan onto my scheduled CT so we can get all the results at the same time.
And so here I am again, trapped in the hope-fear continuum, as I always am whenever I wait for the results of tests like these. No matter what I’m doing – working or buying groceries, talking or typing, listening or laughing – I can feel the almost magnetic tension between the poles of hope and fear. It feels like walking a tightrope, where any slip can hurl me either into terror or wild optimism.
And this time in particular there’s a lot going on, pulling me in both directions. There is the fear that the scans will reveal tumour growth or new spots, possibly in my (gulp) brain. I’ve also noticed pain at the site of my original tumour, the one long-ago removed, and …is that a little lump under my arm??
But before I spiral down into the murky depths of Fearsville, let’s just shake off the slime of terror and foreboding for a moment and give the other end of the spectrum a chance. Because there is also the lure of hope: pure and shiny and just as powerful a pull as the gravity of fear. And this time, offsetting the whirlpool suck of fear, I have to say hope’s got a pretty good leg-up. This time, I actually believe I have reason to be hopeful – dizzy spells and phantom tumour pain notwithstanding.
Even though I’m superstitious enough to hesitate to blog it out to the universe for fear of jinxing myself, I’ve decided that I will share why I’m leaning toward hope because I also have a cockamamie theory that other people wishing for it too might help to make it come true. So, here goes: I can feel that the lumps in my neck are getting smaller! Its not just my imagination – my oncologist has on two occasions made a happy/surprised face and a little “Hm!” sound when examining me in the past few weeks. (She is not the overly effusive type, so for her, I like to think “hm!” is the equivalent of jumping up and down and high-fiving me.)
Anyway, I’ll know on Thursday. In the meantime I’ll walk the tightrope and try not to go completely mad. Although I confess I’m rubbing my shrunken neck lumps like lucky pennies, and giving my brain and under arm lump 800-pound-gorilla status just by dint of the concentration it requires to not think about them.
Luckily, I had a visit with my amazing cancer shrink yesterday, and he says “What-ifs” are strictly off limits.
No matter how positively you spin a What-if, reasons my amazing cancer shrink, it invites its opposite, thereby opening the door to anxiety.
And nobody wants to live in that house, located, as it is, in the reeking swamp of Fearsville. So I just have to stay with what I know, which, right now, is …nothing. Nothing is pretty hard to hold onto – but even if it’s not as great as good news, it’s still better than bad news.
Holding onto nothing… Oh my, my, my. That’s the thing about cancer: you might beat the disease, but you’ll probably go crazy doing it.