Close to Home

After what ended up being a rough ending to my otherwise wonderful day yesterday, I got off to a rough start today. I spent the morning at work surrounded by my amazing coworkers while I cried into a Kleenex about my frustrations with cancer (with a little bit of “life in general” thrown in for good measure).

One of my relatives (not blood-related) diagnosed with breast cancer a year and a half before me experienced a recurrence in her bones earlier this year. Her L5 disintegrated and she had to have a couple vertebrae removed. I was able to speak a little with her mom in Dallas a couple of weekends ago and got some more information on the issues her daughter experienced and they hit a little too close to home for me.

Her initial pathology from her breast cancer diagnosis was eerily similar to mine. Her HER2 protein initially tested “inconclusive” and had to be sent off for further testing, which eventually came back negative. But when cancer came back in her bones, her doctors decided they had misdiagnosed her the first time around and that the HER2 protein was actually present the first time but had somehow “escaped”. 

This exact scenario happened when they tested my pathology for the HER2 protein. (This protein’s presence means the cancer is very aggressive and must be treated much more aggressively than if it is negative.) My pathology initially came back inconclusive and was sent off for further testing before eventually coming back negative. 

And with my high ER/PR percentages – if we’re going off the most recent pathology report from Duke (Novant’s percentages were half of what Duke found, which would have meant chemo for me, hence the need for a second opinion) – coupled with the HER2 being negative, it was decided that I didn’t need chemo. 

I don’t know that I ever fully came to terms with my pathology reports and the decisions made by my doctors and myself because of all the inconsistencies and second opinions, so I’m becoming more nervous now than ever about it coming back. 

I’ve been stressing about this for a few weeks now, and my emotions are not as under control as I’d like them to be (hence the crying at work), but this is what I’m dealing with now.

I am still working on getting in to see a new oncologist to discuss my options, but despite having resource after resource here in Charlotte, it is still hard to get in to see someone new (and to get your old clinic/hospital system to cooperate). 

In the meantime though, time is passing and nothing is being done to stop something new from developing, which is causing emotional – and therefore physical – issues I can’t get a hold on.

My stomach is in a constant state of nervousness that is physically painful at times, my appetite has all but disappeared over the last 3 weeks (not that I’m complaining much about that one), and I’m noticing new grey hairs on a weekly basis (that I’ve decided to embrace). Not to mention I’m just mentally exhausted all the time.

My health is fine otherwise, though. I’ve started walking Warren again and doing some form of yoga every night. But despite these small steps at getting back into the swing of things, I’m still finding myself stressing that I’ll worry myself into an actual illness if this keeps up.

It’s hard to find the light on days (or weeks) like this, but I’m still working on it. It’s a daily battle, and some days – like today – I’m just too tired to fight it.

Even when you find joy, life still goes on around you. So let the tears come. Take a day to grieve when you need to. I listen to the vinyl that makes me happy (or crank up that gangsta rap if that’s the current mood) and hope that the next day will be better. And on special occasions, when you have the time off work, make a trip home to Mississippi to get a family-sponsored recharge.

Find the light and keep on, keepin’ on, y’all.

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