I found myself at the Oncology clinic every day this week for iron infusions. This is because my hemoglobin and iron were dreadfully low at my chemo appointment on Monday. Dr. Oncologist said that I'd lost two units of blood since she'd last seen me! Well, I knew exactly where it had gone, and suffice it to say that my ovaries are on some continuum of healing but are currently behaving like those of a 50-year-old woman. We don't yet have a plan for how to deal with that, and I probably won't discuss it further on the blog, but the significant point is that I am periodically weak and bloodless.
Dr. Oncologist ordered iron infusions into my port to get me fixed up as quickly as possible. They were a piece of cake, only 30 minutes each day for 5 days, and the only side effects were dreadful headaches on each of the first three days. By Wednesday I had more spring in my step and was feeling better. However, I was surprised by how much they disrupted my mental game.
I have become accustomed to only having an appointment every three weeks. It has been glorious. I have picked up every thread of my life, I think. I'm still behind on some science things and some house things, but I'm working hard on everything and having so much fun doing it. Receiving treatment once every three weeks is a sustainable frequency that allows me the freedom to live my life while still being responsible to my disease.
Going to Oncology every day messed with my head for numerous reasons. Reason 1: It is disruptive to my other lives. In my science life, I am having a hard time keeping up with my bank of paid leave that I can use for medical appointments. I'm using it faster than I accrue it. In my mom life, Eleanor was home sick a few days this week, so I had to call on a friend (D you rock my world!) to sit with her so that I could go get my treatments. The coordination kinda stressed me out.
Reason 2: The waiting room. Oh, the oncology waiting room. I have blogged about the waiting room before. Sometimes I overhear endearing conversations among old folks, and other times I learn life lessons from new friends. This week, however, I struggled to find inspiration in the waiting room. Everyone seemed particularly glum, bald, and phlemy. Dr. Oncologist has told me that she avoids the waiting room, and now I understand why.
On Wednesday I sat somewhat in the middle of three men who seemed to be together. The two nearest to me were talking the cancer talk, trying to one-up each other with the procedures they'd undergone. "Drug X? Oh, that was nothing! You don't know pain until you've had your Y biopsied. I tell you what, that's the worst I've been through!" When they both paused for air, the third man tried to change the subject. "Did you see that article about the Keystone pipeline and politics? He's for it, she's against it, and I just don't know what I think." The other two men did no more than blink at him before resuming their cancer conversation. "I was an electrician, union man. I retired 5 years early, and boy am I glad I did because I got this cancer diagnosis the year I was supposed to retire. Glad I got to have a few years of fun before I go!" Oh man, they couldn't call my name fast enough that day.
Because I'm not one of them, right? I mean I am, and I was, but I'm not? Not now?
And if I am one of them, should I be doing all of these other things? CAN I do all of these other things? Maybe I can't actually do these other things but I think I can? The imposter syndrome meets stage 4 breast cancer.
I am actually no more or less mortal than the rest of you all, I just spend more time thinking about it than you do. Average folks probably think about them once every five years or so, when they get rear-ended or have a bout of high blood pressure. My experiences in the oncology waiting and treatment rooms bring these thoughts to the surface all the time, whether I'm ready for them or not. For my part, I acknowledge that they are a part of me while trying to think about them less often. However, I have a PET scan next Friday (4/24), so I don't anticipate any mental breaks in the near future.
In the meantime I'm going to polish a 5-year research proposal, submit a grant proposal, and finish a manuscript. I'm going to buy some paint and rearrange some furniture. I'm going to keep working on the bike-riding and shoe-tying lessons. I'm going to discuss books with friends. I'm going to go to the movies with my husband and eat a ton of popcorn. I suppose that I am, and I can, until someone tells me otherwise. One day at a time? Ignorance is bliss? Just do it? Something like that.