I am unremarkable. So I was told last Monday. Yep...unremarkable. And I couldn’t be happier about it. The road to my unremarkability (that’s not a real word) actually started way before Monday. A couple of months ago my oncologist asked a very simple, logical question. “So, are you having any headaches?” Until that moment it never occurred to me that the cancer might make it’s way to my brain. Somehow, without question, I assumed the cancer cells would stay in the lower 48 as if my collarbone were the equivalent of the Canadian border. “No,” I responded in somewhat of a questioning way, as in “No, I don’t think so?” and/or, “No, but, maybe, let me think about this?” and/or, “No, wow, I never even thought about it but, gee, now it’s all I seem to think about!”
I left her office. As the days passed and my cancer marker climbed, I watched as some part of me, some aspect of my personality took up the “watch” and began monitoring for sensations in my head. It was acting as the border patrol looking for suspicious characters wishing to enter forbidden territory. “What was that sensation? Is that new? Maybe my head does hurt? I feel something.” In my more rational moments I was able to counter with, “ Renee, perhaps unclenching your jaw might make the pain go away.” “Oh, yeah, that does help!” “Hmmm, my eyesight has gotten worse.” “Try not squinting.” I was creating stories about unwanted possibilities that, at times, seemed beyond my ability to control. I wish my creativity in storytelling would confine itself to my blog!
A couple weeks ago I did wake up with a headache. Fortunately, it was a Thursday and Thursdays are spent at the Lifespring Cancer Treatment Center (see my last post for information about the clinic) and I was scheduled to talk with Dr. Chue who always asks how the presiding week went since the last treatment. “Well, I woke up with a headache today.” He calmly nodded his head, “Lets schedule you for an MRI then and get a baseline brain scan. Breast cancer can metastasize to the brain.” The scan was scheduled for Monday, Aug 29th. I was both relieved…now I’ll know, and worried…do I really want to know?
As I was getting ready for my MRI appointment Monday morning well entrenched in my own world of coping when Wes said something to me. I interrupted him, hugged him, or more appropriately, held onto him and said, “I’m scared.” He rubbed my back, probably said something reassuring. I don’t remember, but it didn’t matter; the closeness did. We went about our preparations and drove to the appointment. I filled out the necessary forms, sat for a minute and they called my name…
When the technician had me lay on the table and got my head situated the way she wanted it, I found myself thinking about the crystalware I recently had delivered from Ireland and about the easy bake oven I had as a young girl. The technician had me scoot all the way up so my shoulders just touched the box-like contraption that would be home to my head for the next half hour. After the ear plugs went in, padding was placed on each side of my head so it wouldn’t move. A lid was placed over my head completing the “packaging”. My head was in a box. Fortunately, the box is open at the end closest to your chin so you can breathe. Recently, I had crystal tumblers shipped from Ireland that broke somewhere in the delivery process. Had the packaging been as complete as was done on my head for the MRI, I’m sure the glasses would have made it undamaged. The technician then rolled me into the tube...aka Easy Bake Oven.
I’m glad I meditate. I’m glad I meditate because it is incredibly loud and particularly close in the Easy Bake Oven. Instead of focusing on the noises that are eerily similar to those found in construction zones, I quieted my mind and repeated a prayer-like mantra over and over. I also thought about the recurring images that have been popping into my psyche recently. They are images of me speaking in front of groups, I have a smile on my face, vibrancy in my being, and I am sharing all that cancer has taught me; the vehicle it has been to my transformation. I see another image of my grandchildren. There are two of them, a boy and girl, about seven and nine years old. Our excitement upon seeing one another is mutual. They don’t care what I may or may not have accomplished. They are just glad to see me, and I them. Those images are my lodestar. They are the real me and I know I’m on my way to them. Sometimes the road there can be bumpy but it’s ok, it’s worth it.
About 3/4 of the way through the scan a wave of peace enveloped me. “It’s ok. No matter what the scan says it’s ok, Renee. If there is something there you are already doing something about it, and Dr. Chue has dealt with this many times. If there is nothing there, then won’t that be fun to celebrate! It’s a win-win Renee, either way you won’t have to be wondering anymore.”
I was rolled out of the Easy Bake Oven and the technician warmly said, “You look like you could have stayed in there forever!” She was particularly friendly and my mind quickly jumped to an analysis of her niceness. One story says she was nice because she feels bad for the results of the scan. Another story was created that says she was nice because there was nothing on the scan. Somehow the ego finds comfort in attaching some meaning, any meaning to what it’s perceiving. Never mind that she might just be a nice person. That train of thought gives the ego no comfort. It’s looking for a life raft; niceness for no reason has no substance, though it may well be the truth.
I thought I was going to have to wait for my normal Thursday appointment to find out the results of the brain scan. Instead, when I left the radiologists office I headed over to Dr. Chue’s clinic to receive a saline drip to help flush the dye that was used through my kidneys. Dr. Chue walked into the room and his first words were, “We got the results back from your brain scan and everything looks normal. Your scan was unremarkable.”
The news settled in and I remembered my peaceful moment during the scan, “And if nothing is there won’t that be fun to celebrate!” And so I celebrated! I smiled and said “Well, I’m unremarkable and that is so awesome! I’m glad I’m unremarkable!” When the nurse came in I made her fist bump me, “My scan was clear!” I excitedly shared. In the car on the way home, I would periodically turn to Wes, “My scan was clear!” Every night when I go to bed I say a prayer of gratitude for the clear scan AND for getting to have the experience of such joy, relief, and excitement of receiving good news.” It’s such a great feeling.
Unremarkable...my new favorite word...