January 20, 2015
I had my six month follow up with my gynocologic oncologist today, the most caring and kind Dr. S.. He is my surgeon and technically I don’t need to see him right now as I am under the care of a medical oncologist, the good Dr. R., but… I went back to him early in 2014 hoping for a surgical solution to continuing bowel blockage issues. I knew before I saw him really that surgery was not going to be an option, but I like and trust him and was feeling desperate. So, I began seeing Dr. S. again every few months. I like to think of him as another resource for information and support even. Since I last saw him my blockage spontaneously resolved and I’ve gained about 10 pounds. I no longer am in pain and my quality of life is pretty good although I am still on the chemotherapy train, without a break now for about two years.
Dr. S. entered the exam room with a big grin on his face and just stared at me looking goofily happy. He was so pleased with how I am doing and that I am no longer in pain. He said I made his day! He held up a paper that had the list of 11 distinct chemo regimens I’ve had since March of 2010 and exclaimed “It’s working!”. I was taken back a little by this and I thought his perspective was interesting. From my perspective, if the chemo were working I wouldn’t still be rifling through the catalog of drugs but rather be in blissful remission. He said that I am the success story and the antithesis to the ongoing rhetoric about stopping treatment for patients like me. First, I was not aware that in the medical world there is ongoing rhetoric about giving up on patients like me. That’s a little disturbing. And, well yes, I guess from his view I am a medical success story. I have not thought of “my story” in those terms before this. I am receving more and more comments like this from my doctor(s). Sometimes not really direct comments but implications really. Dr. R. has told me I am a role model to some of his other patients. There are two of his patients that I actually know, so “some” really represents one or two, but I get what he was telling me. I was surprised at his comment. Cyncial even. I speculated that they must teach that sort of encouragement in medical school. But whether genuine or contrived, it did work. I hold my head higher around my Teal Talk support group ladies and when I walk the halls of the cancer center. I even put more effort into my appearance for these encounters.
Dr. S.’s recent comment leads me to believe that he sees my survival as his/their success, medically speaking. Of course these skilled, caring doctors play a big role and I wouldn’t still be here without them. The surgeries and chemotherapy have bought me time. However, the good quality of life that I am currently enjoying while fighting is all me. I’ve been lower than pond scum both physically and emotionally at times and, yes, the chemo does make me ill. But I emerge each and every time, rising up to fully live and enjoy my life because I want to.
I now realize the importance and impact of the role I have played along this journey. I will describe this realization as nothing less than an epiphany. It hit me so suddenly laying on the exam table wrapped in a sheet, feet in stirrups that I nearly doubled back after the appointment to tell the doctor “Wait a minute, let’s not give chemo all the credit!”. I should have. I know that I have, without conscious intention, positively impacted my health. Just imagine what I can do now with intention! My heart soars with hope from this new found power!