Wednesday, 12 September 2012

3 Month Check-Up

I was very tired this morning but it was a residual tiredness from my first couple of days of teaching.  This morning I had some "down" time and as a result I had time to think.  My 3 month check-up with my oncologist was scheduled for this afternoon.  My appointment coupled with some bad news about another friend with cancer, was causing me some anxiety this morning.  This friend was diagnosed with cancer about the same time I was.  Her journey has not been as successful as my own and I learned that currently she is not doing well.  I learned this a few days ago and it has weighed heavy on my heart ever since.  It's not fair that chemotherapy works for some people and not for others!  Anyway, I was feeling some anxiety this morning.  I wasn't sure if I was feeling a lump on my jawline on the right side.  Was this another lump to be concerned about?  I've been worried about my cognitive abilities and the problems with words not coming to me, some memory lapses that I've been having and my inability to multi-task as much anymore.  I was also worrying about the swelling and achiness that occurred on Monday night after I had finished teaching.  My challenge, then this morning, was to keep the "what ifs" at bay.  In order to do that I did laundry and kept myself busy preparing for my appointment this afternoon.

I wrote down my list of questions that I wanted to ask my doctor:

1.  Impairment of my brain function?
2. Permanent heart damage from the chemotherapy?
3. Does being overweight help lymphoma return?
4. How long does it take to fully recover from the chemotherapy treatment?
5. Nerve function in my neck -- I touch the left side of my neck just under the back of the jaw and I feel it on the left side just below the collarbone-- will the nerves recover or is this permanent?
6. Swelling and achiness in the area where my neck and shoulder meet.
7. Possible lump on the right side of my jaw?

I kept myself busy and was able to make my way to my appointment without being too strung out with anxiety.  The clinic was very busy today and I was glad I had a book with me to read while I waited for my turn.  This was the first appointment that I was attending by myself.  My husband wanted to come with me and he did appear in the waiting room while I was waiting to be called.  Unfortunately, he had work commitments that needed to be tended to and I convinced him that I was comfortable going to this appointment by myself.  He just looked so torn between wanting to come with me and needing to attend to his work.  I promised him that I would drop by his office after my appointment to give him the update.

While waiting for my turn, I was saddened to see the number of people who are obviously fighting their own battles with cancer.  I'm confused about my sad feelings because I didn't have them while I was coming to the clinic every 3 weeks for my treatments and doctor appointments.  I know that I am very happy to be in remission but I also feel some sadness and maybe even guilt that I'm happy while other friends are still in a terrible fight (and losing) with this dreadful disease.  Perhaps that's where the sadness came from while I was in the waiting room today.  I also saw other patients who were visiting with each other and laughing and having a good time.  This reminded me of when I met up with a friend of our's while I was in treatment.  We had also laughed and had a good time.  Today I was happy to see that there were others that can be happy in the Cancer Clinic too.  Obviously I am filled with mixed emotions and confusion.

I finally got to see my doctor.  I asked him my questions.  I don't have to worry about any permanent heart damage.  That was a relief!  The overweight question?  The answer is no but I should try to keep the weight off through a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise.  My doctor did mention that there is a common psychological phenomena with people who have gone through chemotherapy.  People seem to give themselves permission to eat anything and give themselves treats.  That combined with the weakened state (which means less exercise) translates into weight gain.  So I do need to watch what I'm eating again and get back into a regular exercise program.  How long does it take to recover from chemo?  It takes anywhere from 6 months to up to a year.  My doctor didn't have an answer regarding why my neck nerves are mixed up.  It most likely is from the surgical biopsy but he didn't know if this permanent or temporary.  My doctor also didn't have an answer to why I would be swelling and having pain.  The lymph nodes in the area are normal.  In fact, after examining me, he said everything appears to be just fine.

He did have some concerns regarding my brain function.  It helped that during one of my questions, my brain refused to find the word to finish the question.  My doctor was able to witness this most frustrating issue.  He is almost sure that it is the "chemo fog" that people have.  It should improve.  But there is a slight possibility that there could be a trace of lymphoma in the brain.  He did some basic neurological tests on me which I passed without any problems.  He is going to send me for a MRI of my brain just to make sure.  He also said it would give him a baseline to compare to in the future.  He reassured me that he is just being very thorough and making sure what it isn't.

He is such a great doctor.  He is always so willing to answer questions and spend the time with me when I need it.  I don't want to become a hypochondriac but the symptoms I had were exactly the same as other symptoms for other conditions that women my age experience.  Living with the "what ifs" is an exercise in self-discipline as I try to be realistic but still positive.  I have to trust my doctor and believe him when he says that everything with my brain is fine.  I'll be seeing him again in six weeks. 

1 comment:

  1. Your doctor sounds wonderful. In this fast-paced world, it's always nice to find professionals who are patient and willing to answer all your questions.

    I'm sorry about your friend. It truly is upsetting why therapies work for some people and not for others. I hope things get better for her.