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Peggy Barnhardt: The challenging game of cancer — the climax

The last leg of the quest for cancer survivorship is no less daunting. Even CT, PET and MRI scans can be trialsome. Especially so if you have claustrophobia, as I do. For me, the machines are too small in dimension, confining, grave-like entombments, with instructions not to move, as if you could.

Arms affixed to your sides, you are enclosed and surrounded by this tool, the bulk of which is only inches from your face, while you lay on your back, like a sardine in a can. There is no escape without help.

There is a loud cranking noise going on. Music is played to quiet your fears, but with the adrenalin rush it doesn’t help much.

The feeling of suffocation pours over me. You are completely reliant on the compassion of the clinical technician to release you promptly in the event of a panic attack.

There are medications prescribed for relaxation which I gladly accepted. They made all the difference in the toleration point. The fear is real, but you have to resign yourself to taking these tests because not knowing the extent of your cure is more foreboding and may come back to bite you later.

I talk and pray myself through it, making sure my attendant is fully aware of my mental state for quick response. Having completed the scans successfully I am at a stage of hopeful anticipation of going back to my original routine, minus travel back and forth to doctors visits, side effects of the chemicals, and perhaps even the dissolution of the diabetes.

I look forward to the peace of mind that stability brings, that good health imbues, I see joy on the horizon and a new appreciation of what others have gone through on this journey, but there are still a few more hurdles to overcome.

The waiting for the results is agonizing. The expected amount of time is understandable, but when that period is exceeded your imagination is ignited, and the positivity you have been trying to maintain begins to wane.

You wonder if your optimism was premature and you are destined for bad news. You want so much to be done, through and well that the slightest hiccup becomes a power surge of anxiety.

I wondered if the lab workers, radiologist and others that are instrumental in releasing test findings know how nervewracking it is waiting, and is their slowness purposeful or unconcern, routine without feeling, words just written on paper that can evoke blissful joy or dismal sadness. A passing thought was maybe Hurricane Matthew was causing a backlog but even that was not comforting.

Finally I received a reassuring call from Charlotte from my attending nurse, who so many times in the past seven months had waylaid my fears.

She said that vital comparisons were being made with my first scans for analysis and that soon I would be contacted with the results. It helped to know that I was in line for service and kept in mind as a person empathetically.

On Monday, Oct. 10, I received the good news, that I was cancer free. I felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I could climb out of this constricted rut, make plans for the future, upload my lagging adventurous spirit and trip the light fantastic.

Given the choice to sit it out or dance, I  will always choose to dance.

Peggy Baxter Barnhardt shared her original experience with cancer in the Salisbury Post on July 3 and the second part on Oct. 2.

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