Brett and I took the old familiar drive up the 405 today for a follow up appointment with my oncologist. Prior to seeing her, I had to have a blood draw. Today for some reason my body and veins decided to be difficult, and it took 45 minutes and 4 pokes to find a good vein. My oncologist told me it was time for some arm exercises to help build up my veins.
While I was sitting in the phlebotomist chair, another doctor walked in with a woman about my age who was very upset. The doctor asked the phlebotomist to do a panel on her and led her to the chair beside me. She was with her Mom it seemed. Even with a partition between us for privacy, I could hear her sobbing silently and her Mom telling her it was going to be OK and she was going to beat it. All this time while she was crying, I was getting poked.
A few minutes later, the nurse practitioner walked in to ask the woman for her insurance card. As the nurse walked away, she leaned over to me and whispered, "This woman just found out she has your exact diagnosis. Maybe you could talk to her?" I nodded and the phlebotomist continued to poke me. A feeling of relief fell over me. My biggest fear when I first saw this woman in tears was that her cancer had returned, and I worried that it could happen to me. It didn't dawn on me that this was new to her.
When the phlebotomist was finished with me, I stood up and peeked around the partition. I let the woman know we had the same diagnosis and that I was now cancer free. She was 41 years old and lived in Irvine with a 2 1/2 year old. She asked me my age and if I had kids. Her biggest concern was surviving the month long chemo induction in the hospital, and missing her daughter. I told her about the nice rooms and the wonderful nurses, and how UCLA had the best treatment in the country. I emphasized that our type of cancer was curable. I didn't tell her the bad things. She had long, pretty brown hair and was worried about losing it. I told her it took my hair 2 weeks to start falling out, and that eventually it would grow back.
She thanked me and I wished her luck as we left the room. As we walked down the hall, I told Brett that I didn't remember ever crying like that when I first got the news. He laughed and told me that I cried hysterically when I got the news. I guess I don't remember it that way. In fact, trying to remember everything that has happened these last 9 months is sometimes difficult for me. I don't remember much of the bad stuff. Part of me thinks that is because I'm such an optimistic person. Then I look down at my skin and see the scars from my rashes and blood draws and PICC lines, and the lost finger nails and toe nails. I run my hand through my short curly hair. These reminders will be with me for a while.
I don't know why God has given me so many challenges in my life. Just when I think I've adjusted to raising a special needs child like Jenelle, he gives me Leukemia. They say God never gives you more than you can handle. My response is that I wish he didn't think so highly of me.
My appointment went well today. My White Blood Cell count is a little below normal, but nothing like it was when I had cancer, or when I was getting IV Chemo. My doctor approved me to return to part time work. I plan to go back next Wednesday. My doctor explained that she really wanted to stress me taking it slow because fatigue can make me more susceptible to illness (especially with flu season right around the corner!) I called my boss a bit ago because I wanted her to hear it from me first and she was very excited and agreed 100% with my doctor's recommendation.
So I guess I've come full circle now. I am a cancer survivor, and I was able to pass on my personal experience to help another who is in the same place I was 9 months ago. I wouldn't want to be in her shoes. Been there, done that. I am so thankful to finally get my life back to normal. Whatever normal means for our special family.
Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers. I will be seeing my oncologist again in one month. And of course I'll keep you posted!