Like many other people who have a chronic illness requiring regular monitoring, I get blood tumor markers drawn every-other month, and CT scans and a brain MRI every four months. And also, like many other people, I had to delay my scheduled appointments due to the covid-19 crisis. Originally, my tests were planned for mid-March, but I was advised by my oncologist to reschedule them in late-May, unless I became symptomatic...experiencing any signs that my cancer was growing.
Early on there was so much that we, as global citizens and lung cancer patients, were learning about covid-19. As usual, lung cancer advocates and my LC community were on top of it all. It's no surprise that those with lung cancer have a higher mortality rate...so you can imagine how afraid someone like me can be. With ventilators being in short supply, the need to triage sick patients was very scary to this 61-year-old with stage 4 lung cancer. In my rational, practical moments, I get it. Of course a 25-year-old healthy person should receive a ventilator before I do...but hey...then what happens to me? I have a family that loves me. I have an elderly mother that depends on me. I work and contribute to my community.
Although I believe in playing it safe when it comes to this novel corona virus, and I appreciate my oncologist encouraging patient autonomy, I find it so difficult to be the judge of whether, or not, I'm having symptoms. It's not possible for me to feel achy or have a twinge of pain without worrying that my cancer is actively growing again. Nope. Not possible at all. As much as I hate having all this testing done, I find the reassurance of negative results outweighs the burden of worry. Covid-19 restrictions threw a wrench into my plans to get that reassurance.
With all those thoughts swirling around in my head, in mid-April I contacted my oncologist's office to let them know that I had abdominal pain and many of my bones seemed achier than usual. The office staff was great and last week I went to the hospital to have testing done, covid-19 fears, and all.
|Masks...made by dear friend Sumi|
The CT and MRI rooms only had one tech and me in them. As I looked around, there were multiple canisters of disinfectant wipes positioned around both rooms, helping me believe the rooms and machines were wiped clean. I was able to keep my mask on during the CT scans, but had to remove it for the MRI because it had a metal wire in it. CT scans were first, followed by my MRI. By the time I laid down on the MRI table, I was so exhausted from being stressed out, I closed my eyes and promptly fell asleep. It was over in, what seemed like, seconds. Then I donned my face mask and windbreaker, (my version of PPE), and walked out of the hospital as fast as I could.
As I drove home, I noticed that I wasn't feeling the abdominal pain that brought me to the hospital in the first place. Could it be that my pain was in my head? Could it be that I had pain only because I needed to have the reassuring tests?
|Socially distant bike riding, w/ Nina, Wynn, Mike, Ann & Megan.|
I grew up with parents, teachers and coaches who taught me to embrace a "mind over matter" mentality. Unfortunately, there's no doubt that, in living with stage 4 cancer, I often live in a "matter over mind" state.
It sucks. And this time, cancer was scarier than covid-19.