MY DOCTOR VISIT
The thing about cancer is that you are in bed with your doctor and not in the good kind of way either, besides mine is a chick and I don’t swing that way anyway.
Add to the cancer cocktail, having the BRCA2 gene and you have the regular check up platinum VIP card because regular checks and pokes are part of my party now.
This is a good part of the challenge of early diagnosis; you get checked often so if the “it” you dread comes back, it will hopefully be an early “it.” As was mine and voila in a whirlwind, off with the boobs, on with the boobs and now I get to go to the other Dr. (Dr. Hottie in case anyone reading this forgot about him) every ten days for more pokes and fills. At least fills are fun because each time I get one, it is like playing porn star dress up. They are stellar and amazing if I do say so myself. Of all the things that suck about surgery and cancer and BRCA2, this has been the most surprising and fun aspect of this whole shindig. I can’t believe I am writing this let alone saying this aloud to whomever may be reading this.
I have seen the light as early as I have because I am fit, my cancer was caught early twice, I don’t smoke, I am not overweight, I have a healthy kickass attitude and NO CHEMO. I think of all of the things I am most grateful for in all of these catch shit early appointments, NO CHEMO is the greatest blessing.
So yesterday was my first appointment since the last surgery with my regular breast surgeon. Not the breast plastic surgeon, the other surgeon, my dear Dr. W. who is like a superchick times a million and my soul sister for sure. She is not an alarmist, she is also not to be fucked around with. Down to business to discuss the seriousness of my future.
“There is more and more research coming out about BRCA2, Alayne,” she said with the calmness and preventative sound in her tone. The latest has been that you are in a higher risk for colon cancer so it is important to get your colonoscopies every five years instead of ten.”
She continued, “Also there is a higher risk of thyroid cancer too so when was the last time you had an ultrasound?”
I had found out I had nodules on my thyroid when I was 40 so I have been having my thyroid monitored for twelve years, two biopsies later and still benign. Phew. That doesn’t mean that the nodules haven’t changed over twelve years, in fact they have grown, but are still benign. Double Phew. I don’t want to have my thyroid taken out. The thyroid is like the head honcho of our entire organ system in our bodies.
On she went in her pragmatic serious Doctor tone though great because it is the truth, I was starting to freak a bit. I find the balancing act between freaking out with worry and burying my head in the sand and ignoring all the potential threats coming at me challenging. My positive constitution I have been quite proud of for the past TEN WEEKS TODAY was starting to head south, but I trudged on.
“I will schedule you for an ultrasound of your thyroid and your uterus; at some point we may want to discuss taking your uterus out too, but we can talk about this later.” For fuck sake, how many body parts can come out and off?
The uterus is also on the agenda due to my father’s sister, my aunt having a sarcoma of the uterus so yet another body part to concern myself with. By the way, with all of these body parts coming off, why aren’t I at least ten pounds lighter? Oh yeah, my new bodacious kick ass tits must weigh at least tenJ
Holy shit. I am thrust right back into the downer side of cancer. I thought I was considered a “survivor.” I thought me and my sportin new boobs were good to go.
Dr. W. is a big buzzkill today. But I fucking love her. She is honest and realistic and she is watching me like a hawk and I totally appreciate her professional care.
It just sucks. That’s all. The feeling of fretting, worry and anxiousness that I have somehow managed to avoid. in my resilient and forge ahead style came rushing back like first hot day after an icestorm, you know the icicles melting, water streaming.
Dr. W. is the only doctor in the entire group of doctors I have seen in the past two years who actually talked about nutrition and exercise out of the gate. She was the first doctor who ever mentioned the elimination of dairy. I TRUST HER. So when we began reviewing my family history, specifically my brother’s cancer, she realized that she thought my brother had died of adenocarcinoma of the lung at 27, not 25. He was actually diagnosed at 23 and likely it was there at 22 or earlier. This set off the alarm for my son to get a genetic test.
“I thought you said he should wait until later, like 25 or something,” I said.
“For some reason I thought your brother was 27, not 23. Michael should get tested now so he knows. This way we can monitor him early if it is positive.” Totally reasonable if it wasn’t my kid, I guess.
OH MY GOD. Talk about wanting to bury my head in the sand. Here’s the thing, Michael is almost 20, his mannerisms and his funny cynicism are very bright reminders of my brother Michael. As my son, Michael is climbing the age ladder, I can feel myself getting super triggered, like Dickens Ghost of Christmas Past. There are times when I look at my son and he feels like my brother and it is awesome, weird and freaky, sad and lovely at every turn.
When Dr. W. suggested I schedule this genetic test, the stark reminder of the seriousness of this whole situation came to the frontlines of my world. This genetic mutation is a 50/50 shot if one parent has it, assuming the other doesn’t. It doesn’t skip a generation, it doesn’t lessen. If he doesn’t have it, it ends with me. If he does then it continues with him and that sucks. Having the BRCA2 mutation is not a guarantee of cancer. Many people have it and the gene never gets “turned on.” But certainly with my family history, the odds must increase and this is worrisome. I am good at being resilient and strong for my own self. Who knows how I will deal with this next phase of motherhood. Didn’t see this one coming.
So today the day after the appointment, I feel down for really the first time since my surgery. The thought of spending the next few months back in the saddle with the genetic testing and doctor’s appointments, but this time for my son freaks me out and pushes buttons that are way beyond what lies ahead. Yes I know that we of course would rather know and have the information. Yes this is pragmatic and responsible, but it scares the hell out of me and I am not sure if I can handle the answer. Of course I will, what a mother and father need to do for their children has to take a backseat to what is best for them. I know this. It is just so heavy for an almost 20 year old young man just starting his life out to have to even consider though. So today I am sad and teary eyed, thank goodness for writing. It saves me.
My brother and me at my wedding in 1990, my son at around 1998–99, me with my brother in 1970 and me with my brother after chemo in 1995 when we still thought we could beat it.