About three months ago I was having a recurrence of the fluid around my lung (pleural
effusion). This can be a manifestation of the disease, or it can be a symptom
of the drug I am on, which causes edema. Lucky me. On top of the already
complicated scenario of having cancer, there is the ever-present ambiguity
about what the fluid around the lung actually is; more disease, or an indication
that the drug is working. It’s almost poetic.
But that’s not the point of this post.
The point is to admit that the discovery of the fluid put me back in the room with my
pulmonary doctor at St. Thomas hospital – among the team who diagnosed me back
in October. The doctor with whom I met (not an oncologist, but a highly
respected lung specialist) has perpetually been the person who says the wrong
thing at the wrong time. Actually, he always says the wrong thing, no matter
the time (beginning with telling me I have cancer, te he he). He’s very intelligent,
and I am certain he means well, but his emotional tool box seems only to house
very blunt instruments. I can’t imagine he is anyone’s go-to person for matters
of the heart.
I’m sitting in his office with Jess and Axel, when seemingly out of nowhere, he tells me
that when I came to him in October, he didn’t see me living longer than two
Ouch. He meant it as a compliment. ‘Oh look how you proved me wrong’. ‘Now I see you living many many years’. Doesn’t matter. I won’t venture to explain how frightening it
was to hear those words. I’ll never forget them. I’ve cursed him every day for
burdening me with that information. Information I strategically had not asked
I share this story in the interest of honesty – the most undervalued virtue in
humankind. A fellow young cancer warrior recently blogged about her experience wearing a ‘Cancer on Board’ pin, a play on the ‘Baby on Board’ pin that pregnant women sport aboard the tube. It’s a cheeky idea. I like it. The reason she chose to give it
a trial run is because – like me – her cancer treatment does not make her ‘look’
sick in the traditional sense.
I fall into this category. I look good (at least that’s what they tell me!) and more
importantly, I feel good (better than ever). But, there is no amount of perceived physical
normalcy that can make a cancer survivor feel normal. I carry the weight of my
diagnoses – having been told at one point that I may only have two months to
live – with me everywhere I go. This isn’t an invisible little bird that follows
me around. This is a fucking bowling ball of information that I try to balance
on my shoulder, as if that’s even possible.
So, there you have it. I look great (if I am to believe what everyone tells me), which I
am very thankful for – because after all, I still have some vanity. But, I
promise most of the pain is internal and I will never not need your support.
Oh, by the way, the fluid eventually went away on its own. I may live long enough after
all to come up with a proper punishment for that doctor 😉 Taking suggestions….