Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Nightmare

What a week. I had my six-month follow up scan on Monday, which always brings an onslaught of new pains and unwelcome sensations in my chest. A strange pull here, a shortness of breath there, a telling knot that tastes like bile in my throat. I have trouble sleeping in the days before, even with the exhaustion of new-parenthood. I growl at the cat for meowing too much and swear more than I should. This is what scanxiety looks like, and when I ask my oncologist if it ever goes away, he just shrugs.

Over the weekend, we got back to Arizona after ten days in Idaho and Washington visiting family and friends. And while it was mostly relaxing, mostly wonderful to escape the heat and visit with loved ones in some of the most beautiful settings that exist, I couldn't shake a sense of panic.


Chris woke me up one night in the middle of our trip, as I was gasping for air and thrashing with the bedsheets. When he asked me what I'd been dreaming about, I sleepily replied, "Frankenstein." He did his best not to laugh at me at 3 in the morning.

My dream wasn't actually about Frankenstein. Frankenstein was just the only word that came to my sleep-fogged mind in the middle of the night. It was a werewolf that was chasing me. In my nightmare, I had the distinct understanding that if this werewolf caught up to me, it would mean more cancer. As I got more and more entangled in the sheets, the werewolf was closing in on me. Then just as it was about to grab hold of me, Chris woke me up. My first thought was that I hadn't really escaped; I'd just been lucky and awoken at the right moment. Cancer could still be lurking. It took me a long while to fall back asleep.

In a moment of terror on Sunday night as I was feeling helpless about my scans and about the atrocities happening to children at our southern border, Chris stepped in to comfort me. "It probably WILL show something," he said, to which I cocked my head and raised my eyebrows.

What kind of comforting was this supposed to be?

"But it's most likely sarcoidosis," he added. That spot on my elbow is back and lingering, despite a steroid shot in December. I thought back to my incessant coughing at the HealtheVoices conference in April.

Monday afternoon, my oncologist called to tell me my scan was all clear. But then I met with him Tuesday, and the radiologist's report clearly says I have a 4mm nodule on my right lung that has been unchanged since at least 2014.


There has never been any mention of this nodule; my left lung was the one biopsied in 2016. I checked my file and the tiny scar next to my port scar.

At home, Chris scoured prior scan reports, and there's nothing except a passing mention of potential radiation fibrosis, whatever the hell that is. In any case, my oncologist isn't concerned and says we'll just watch this spot. Strangely, I am not completely freaking out. But I am calling my oncologist to ask about fibrosis, and my pulmonologist to get a closer lung inspection. And I might need another vacation.

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