Thursday, September 03, 2009

Full Circle

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!


Kristine said...

I've got a tear in my eye. I'm so happy for your good report. Please take it slow, Iknow you don't do anything half way and afraid you'll jump right back in.

What a look back in time to meet the patient next door. Like a reminder of how far you've come and a reminder of what you've survived. Makes me think of the holiday movie and looking at the past so as to appreciate today. I'm sure she will be touched by you in the months to come and draw you your meeting for inspirations. You are so brave, she needs to know your face and remember you daily.

COngrats on the clear to work, now take is slow.

Sher said...

Kelly-you are a special person. Maybe you should write a short book describing your experience. It would touch so many!

Anonymous said...

Dear Kelly-
So sorry you have to travel this road too...a not too exclusive club unfortunately. I an Ann, a friend and neighbor of Nicki's. I am a three time cancer survivor. Have been continuously on chemo for the last year and 1/2 and we sure do have a "New Normal" to our lives now.I had breast cancer in 2000, Ovarian cancer in march 2008 and Mets to lymph nodes in November of 2008 so I count three times. I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with some awesome people who have become very dear to me through cancer and have been uplifted and given the chance to ease the life path of others through my support groups. A whole 'nother family =)
So kind of you to take the time to speak with the newly diagnosed woman and to be able to calm her fears. We were just talking in Supp Grp last night that we are glad our group is mixed with long time survivors, those in treatment , and those with new DX. Some are segregated by stage and we like our mix of experiences.
Bless you and I understand about wishing the Lord did not have quite so much faith in you =) Your girl is lucky to have you as a mom. Love to your family,
Ann Berkery

Cathy said...

You ARE a survivor! Congratulations on coming full circle. I can sure relate to the "God never gives you more than you can handle" comments. Between having a baby born with cancer, my marriage nearly imploding in what I can only describe as PTSD, and my only brother's suicide, I would very much like a break from all the testing, thank you very much ;)
Life is so good for us now - and my prayer is that yours will be too!

M and A said...

kelly that is wonderful news. i'm so happy for you and your family. and also to tell you God isn't the only one who thinks so highly of you. you are such a strong person, i admire you!!! :D

Anonymous said...! Dabbing my eyes, too!

On the day before you return to your job I just want to say it has been a privilege to read about your journey here.

I will check back to see how Brett (surgery this month) and Jack and Jenelle AND you are doing.

Fantastagirl said...

I am just beyond words that you are returning to work, and doing so awesome!!!

Take it easy!