Peggy Barnhardt: After cancer, a lingering worry
Peggy Barnhardt is a writer who started writing about her experience with a cancer diagnosis and treatment in May 2016. Her treatment is over and she is recovering. Here are her latest thoughts.
You never know the outcome of an experience until you pass through its hallowed halls, perceive hindsight, see if your hindquarters are intact and count the cost.
I went for my sixth month checkup — that is the sixth month after my last chemotherapy treatment — with mixed feelings. Excitement and anxiety were just two of them. However, confidence in my doctors’ accomplishment was still high.
On arrival I was again reminded of the office’s total clientele, cancer victims in various stages of hair loss. For some this was the only indication of their condition, others were emaciated, neither of which happened to me. Both my hair and fat cells survived. The allergic reaction to the original concoction forced the use of a less toxic compound.
I was escorted into the holding room with the usual pleasantries; it sometimes is considered as the “quiet befores the storm cubicle.” Once again I disrobed as I had done so many times before, donning the ever-so-chic gown of exposure.
My doctor came in and examined me and said, “Everything looks great, no signs of cancer.” He said it with pride and surety, like a limited warranty on a home appliance salesman. What supposedly should have eased my anxiety, welled up inconclusiveness. The word “LOOKS” stuck in my craw.
You can’t see cancer cells with the naked eye, or the initial effects in early phases, as was the case with me. It took tests, blood work, biopsies, scans, etc. to detect its presence. I mentioned this, and was informed that these procedures were not usually employed at this juncture.
“ How inconsiderate,” I thought to myself and verbalized it simultaneously.
Does the medical community not know that for the first six months every pain holds promise of relapse? The patient is in limbo with a monster crouching at the entrance, waiting to extend its tentacles into other organs in our bodies, and the ominous aura that surrounds the onset fear is still looming in our minds like recidivism in the prison population.
It takes real courage for some to confront their doctors and step out of the much-sought-after approved zone, for fear of what a more extensive, precise test might uncover. There even might be insurance coverage ramifications or an adverse reaction from the physician, but remember that you are the employer. You have the right to object, request or question any treatment or lack thereof.
I couldn’t quiet my thoughts so I further expressed my concerns to my doctor. He took note and immediately scheduled a CT scan, which I happily took, even though previously I had a claustrophobic episode. I guess my fear of not knowing was greater. I felt unburdened after receiving the all-clear report. Of course, we know nothing is 100 percent, so we except our torture stake and move on.
The most important lesson here is to be honest and candid with those caring for your health needs, even aggressive and defensive if necessary. Transparency is not just for governmental officials; your emotional relief is worth it.
Your doctor may have never experienced what you have. Treating this affliction is one thing but living in this war- torn body is another. Your feelings are understandable but are not his reality.
Ultimately, standing on the sideline with the ball is not the same as being the wide receiver playing in the challenging game of cancer.