Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A New Stage of the Unknown

For the past few months, I have experienced shortness of breath as a result of the chemotherapy. It is definitely at its worst right now. I can't even take a brisk walk without getting short of breath. A few days ago, I began to feel pain on the right side of my throat (or neck). I saw the Nurse Practitioner at my Primary Care Physician's office and she ruled out cold, sore throat, etc. So today I saw my N.P. in the Oncology Dept. at Guthrie in Sayre, PA to determine the source of the breathing issues and the pain in my throat.

I received a chest x-ray to determine if I am having lung difficulties, a sonogram to determine if my port caused a clot in my arteries and an ECHO cardiogram to determine if I have a heart problem. All tests came up negative. So, in the next day or two, I will receive a CT scan of my chest and neck in hopes of finding the source. It's also possible the problem is a result of acid indigestion, which I experience from the chemotherapy and has been found to be related to what feels like shortness of breath during cardiovascular exercise. However, it would not explain the pain in my throat.

S-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, hopefully the CT scan will reveal something. And as a sidebar, I should clarify that it will not include the abdominal CT just yet because of the risk of the false positive. My abdominal CT and PET scans are still scheduled for the middle of April.

Speaking of which, as I walked into the clinic this morning, I realized how anxious I am about my upcoming scans. I would be shocked if they were anything but negative, yet I have no way to know and obviously won't won't know until they are completed and analyzed. And considering my most recent thoughts plus the post-treatment anxiety I am currently experiencing, I am on a bit of an emotional roller coaster - something I have not experienced since the earlier days of my diagnosis.

Post-treatment anxiety is very common among those of us under long-term treatments. It can be from a variety of things. For me what seems to be the source is the drastic change soon to come should my scans come up negative. It sounds odd, but I have been very clear about my role for the last 22-months. I have been doing what ever I need to restore my health and many aspects of my treatment have been extremely intense. Should my scans reveal I am cancer-free, I will need to allow another four weeks from that point to recover from the chemo and then...what...back to normal? That may be the next step but I have to confess, it feels SO far from my reality right now.

Obviously, taking the first steps is what there is to do. And at the same time, the post-treatment anxiety doesn't make it easy. I'll continue to stand back and observe my experience objectively so I can make choices that create the next steps in my life as opposed to making decisions in reaction to what has happened thus far, but the anxiety can get a little intense now and again. I know it comes and goes. It always goes. But I am now in a new stage of the unknown and therefore uncertain how long it will take. Yet I am confident the length of time is really irrelevant and that my sense of security will emerge it what ever way it emerges. Again, it is what I learned so early in this experience - to let go of how I think life should be and simply experience it as it is. Obviously I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. I think you're doing everything right, and I think you know that sometimes the perfect thing to do is nothing, and just let the answers come to you.
    When I found out I was NED, they told me that I had a 50% chance of living 5 years, and to go and live my life. It took me almost 3 years how to do that, but I'm doing it now, and life is good. Give yourself time. You are way more amazing than you realize.


  2. Bert, I'm sorry about these new complications... I hope they figure it out soon.

    I am still waiting to feel normal, and realizing that the normal of before is gone. Which is sad, and I am grieving that this week as I remember what it was like going through chemo this time last year. I think that once you have had cancer and been through all that you have been through to get rid of it, it is always a part of you. So the new normal has to have room for that, and it takes a while to figure out what that means.

    And you HAVE been going through treatment for a LONG time - I had it easy compared to what you have been experiencing. I know how difficult that transition from treatment back to "normal" life has been for me, and I am still going through it. So I can only imagine a little of what you are going through, and what you will be going through over the next few months.

    I respect you for your persistence, your tenacity, your patience, and your attitude. As I said before, I hope they figure out the cause of these new symptoms soon, and address it, so that you can start feeling better.

    Take care.

  3. Bert,
    I am a week post chemo now and as promised I attended my 11 year olds field trip today at Avery Island "THE TABASCO PLANT" in New Iberia, La. The teacher promised me there would be very little walking so I agreed to keep my promise and go, after all, I missed so much of the whole school years activities while having chemo. While we were viewing the bird sanctuary and the algae ridden swamp that is full of alligators I realized I had lost my reading glasses, so as the class made their way back to the bus I took one last look around for my glasses, then trudged back up the hill to meet them, only I took so long and was so out of breath, Layni began to panic and the teachers were frantically looking for me. For all they knew I had been swallowed up by an alligator!! I was COMPLETELY physically challenged just rushing up the small hill to meet the class! I hope your symptoms are just typical post chemo symptoms. I will be keeping you in my prayers for all your results to come back satisfactory. What an exhausting time in our life, but I am much older than you, maybe thats why I couldn't make it back UP the hill, because I AM SO OVER THE HILL!! God Bless!
    Madelene Boudreaux