I have this reoccurring nightmare that my PICC line will bleed out. The nurses tell me that it can’t happen because there is a valve that prevents the backflow of blood … but what if the line is severed? As in a car accident? May as well slice my neck.
The nightmare has me slowly bleeding out … I feel the weakness increase as I lose consciousness … which is much like the weakness I feel while pumped up with chemotherapy. Ever increasing fragility to the point of fading out. My body is dying … one cell and one drop at a time.
I’d give anything to check my vital signs at that moment. Am I as close to death as I feel? One heartbeat away?
When I was told I was being admitted in Visiting Hours, my Oncologist said that I had no platelets, and could bleed out or bruise too easily. That is why they wanted me safely tucked away in an isolation room where I couldn’t get hurt or catch anything. If I was in an accident, I might not stop bleeding. Maybe I want to die?
I dreamed about that in the hospital. Slowly seeping onto the floor … unable to call for help.
It’s irrational … but what about rational fears?
Some people wonder if I am “triple negative” about my diagnosis … The surgeon got clean margins and there is no cancer in my lymph nodes, which is ecstatically good news! So why the “buts”? I have an aggressive cancer.
Clean margins and nodes don’t promise that one cell didn’t escape the tumour. It could be hiding on my liver, in my bones, on my lungs or in my brain. And it could stay dormant for years.
The possibility of a single cell escaping is real. New research indicates that capillaries and vessels that feed the tumour are the routes out. And what did the surgeon tell me?
I have an unusually dense capillary system in my breast.
We have no choice but to blast my entire body with chemotherapy.
A rational fear is recurrence and secondary cancers.
To quote this medical journal: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has a poor prognosis compared to other subtypes and lacks common therapeutic targets, including HER 2 and the estrogen and progesterone receptors.
And this graph says it all … GETTING to 5-years cancer free is a marathon of hope, prayers, luck, vigilance, and maybe more chemo.
We suffer #scanxiety … fear that every scan will detect disease.
And how about this optimistic quote? “Triple negative breast cancer — not necessarily a death sentence.”
I have a 40% of developing a new cancer just from the treatment … because that is the lesser of the evils I face. My days are surely lessened in this lifetime.
I have to brush up on the symptoms for Leukemia.
Since my breast tumour was on the right side, they won’t be radiating through my heart, so I have less likelihood of cardiotoxicity. But the chemo will have some lingering effect.
It’s not unusual for cancer patients to experience PTSD … avoidance, hyper-vigilance and replay the trauma again and again. We’ve battled a war with our own bodies.
Will it feel like the end of the parade when I am declared cancer free? The crowd will disburse. No one will care … except me. Will I ever feel cancer free? How long will it take to get there? Every ache, every bump, every cough, will make me wonder if something sinister is replaying in my body. I’m in the medical system now as a high risk.
How will it feel to get that report that says “NED” … No Evidence of Disease?
I can’t live in stasis. I can’t live on the fence. I’m an either all in or all out kind of person.
I have to tame the fears.
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© Lisa Jobson 2017