A Journey With Cancer
Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.
By A.A. Camp
Four years ago, I had thyroid cancer. Breast cancer is my second journey with the disease. Now I follow the same painful path my mother and grandmother trod for many years.
My thoughts have turned inward the past few months as I continue through cancer diagnosis and treatment. I would like to know many things that can't be found out. I think of many things that I can find out but do not really want to know.
My thyroid cancer was a snap compared to this. I had my thyroid removed and then spent three days in isolation in the hospital while the radioactive element that I swallowed oozed its way out of my body. Although I need to take medicine for the rest of my life, that threat is gone, done. My husband, Fred, did quite a bit of juggling those days as our 12-year-old son was hospitalized for an overlapping period related to a chronic medical condition. Traces of radiation were still coming out of my body, so I could be only a bystander in my life.
But this cancer killed my mother when I was 22, barely an adult. It killed my grandmother, too, although at a later age. This cancer strikes fear in me -- for myself, for our two daughters, and for their daughters, should they have any.
My second journey began on the last day of last year. I had an ultrasound to explore dark spots on my annual mammogram. Fred and I had little doubt it was cancer. A needle biopsy confirmed our fears two weeks later.
Two weeks after the biopsy, I had a partial mastectomy. Now I am halfway through my chemotherapy regime and then will undergo radiation. (No oozing stuff this time!) I hope to have it all finished by Thanksgiving. So far, I have had all the usual side effects. Thankfully nothing out of the ordinary. What a funny thing to be thankful for, but I am.
So what of balance for these many months? I had quit my job shortly before my diagnosis for unrelated reasons. I would have resigned anyway because I am so fatigued. My oncologist tells me that some women are able to work through treatment. My heart goes out to them, with admiration for their strength. Fred's employer has been very supportive, telling him that reshuffling of work or time off that he needs, he will have. His manager regularly reminds him to buy me flowers.
Since our 16-year-old son is the only child remaining at home, the household is easier to manage. Our son is doing more. He cooks for me, cleans for me and helps me with my daily shots -- a chore that Fred refuses to do. (And it is only a small needle, you wimp!) I cannot image how this would have all worked out 10 years ago when all four children were home.
Surprisingly, in the short term, my life is in a state of balance. It's an altered state; one I wish would go away. But I have all the medical, financial, spiritual and physical support that I need. My prognosis has always been excellent.
I now think of longterm balance. Mainly, what lies ahead for my daughters. What they will need to balance their lives with the legacy of three generations of breast cancer? Beyond the emotional turmoil, there are many practical matters to be decided concerning genetic testing. Complex legal, financial, insurance and employment issues lie ahead.
In the meantime, Fred, our sons, our daughters and I plug along with life. We know that we are fortunate, more so than many others. As a family, we will make it through my illness.
A.A. Camp, also known as "Frieda," is a breastfeeding specialist and falling-away Luddite. She can now find Web sites on her own. Sometimes. Sort of. Maybe. She and her husband, our regular poster known as "Fred," live near New Orleans.
By Leslie Morgan Steiner |
April 29, 2008; 7:05 AM ET
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