A deep breath

Yesterday was a day of breakdowns. It started with a phone call from my family doctor’s nurse. She was giving me an update on something totally unrelated to cancer, but all I wanted was the results of my bone scan. She confirmed that the results were in but could not give them to me until the doctor saw them and he was on vacation until Monday. I broke down. There was no way I was going to wait another several days with no information. Knowing that the information was there, but not having access to it was more than I could handle. Three weeks of stress cracked, and the tears started flowing.

Then just as I was leaving a physio appointment, I ran into my friend who happens to also be a family doctor in that clinic. I hate asking her for favours that involve her work. I like to keep our relations on the friend level and try to respect boundaries. Upon seeing her, I broke out into tears and explained what what happening. She gave me a hug and said she would find out who was covering for my doctor and get me an answer that day. I went home waiting for the phone call.

After lunch, I went back to site to continue painting – I’m painting the ceilings in my unit – which is so exciting after painting ceilings and walls in so many other units – my new home is finally at that stage of readiness. As I was setting up, I got the call. It was the nurse again. She confirmed that the results of the bone scan showed “no evidence of metastatic disease”. That is how they say it was clear! YAY.

I immediately began to cry. I had no idea how afraid I was. I had no idea how much emotion I had been suppressing. I went over to share the news with some of my new neighbours and friends. There were lots of hugs and lots of crying. So much emotional support. Exactly what I needed. What a relief.

Every time I told someone I cried. I was reminded of the emotional toll that happens when I share cancer news. I remember how it is not just me that is experiencing it, but also the people I share it with. That can be both supportive but also emotionally draining. I need to figure out ways to share news without too much draining of my emotions. It is hard to explain, but it is a different kind of tax on the system.

But the journey isn’t over. I still don’t have surgery date. I am expecting that today – but then, I have been expecting it for several days. With the scan results, I am expecting that it will be an excisional biopsy – where they remove all the lymph nodes in the right axilla. Then they will do a full biopsy to figure out the specific pathology of the cancer and stage it. All I have for staging now is that they are treating it as a “local recurrence”.

At a minimum I can expect radiation and some form of endocrine (hormone) therapy – unless the cancer mutated so much that it is no longer hormone positive. There may also be chemotherapy. I don’t know. I won’t know until I can talk to my oncologist, which won’t happen until the pathology results come in.

There are some frustrations in the Canadian system. Unlike the US, as a patient, I don’t own my own medical records. I don’t have a “right” to them. I am extra thankful to have a family doctor, as they are the gateway into information. If my family doctor wasn’t on vacation, he would have called me the moment the results came in (or pretty close to it). I am lucky to have that level of support as over 10% of the people in this province don’t have a family doctor. If I didn’t have a family doctor, this cancer likely would not have been found in the first place. I am so very lucky and yet the system is still very frustrating.

And now that I’m not thinking about how I might be dying, I’m going to finish painting my ceilings this afternoon then head out to the Folk Harbour Festival in Lunenburg. I had such a great time last year, and a great time at Stan Fest. I’m very much looking forward to a weekend of great music.

  • Becky

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