Sunday, August 19, 2007

Looking Forward to Chemo

Nope, haven’t lost my mind. I’m actually quite eager to get started on the chemo right away. I don’t want to give these cancer cells any more time to grow. Plus, I’m starting to feel the cancer now.

For most of this year, I’d been feeling pains on the right side of my chest. They were sharp, shooting pains where the radiation had been, and the skin around the area where the skin tumor was removed remained tender and painful to the touch. I’d also felt swelling on the back and right armpit area a number of times. I told my oncologist, my surgeon, and my reconstruction surgeon. They all said it was nerve damage caused by radiation and it was perfectly normal.

In May, I told my radiation oncologist that the pain was getting worse – the stabbing sensation was coming every 5-6 seconds and each one lasted about 2-3 seconds (yes, I timed them like labor contractions). He said that was strange, but probably just nerve damage from radiation and nothing to worry about.

I went to see a breast surgeon in the U.S. when we were there in June and she told me to take Ibuprofen. After several days, the pain went away, so we concluded it was swelling caused by nerve damage.

A few weeks ago, the swelling and tightness got worse so I stopped Dragon Boat training, thinking that I was overexerting the right arm and that was causing the pain and swelling. I also started taking Ibuprofen again. The pain stopped mostly, but the swelling took some time to go down.

When the PET-CT scan came back positive for cancer three days ago, I stopped taking Ibuprofen. Since then, I’ve felt a dull pain deep in the chest on the right side, almost toward the back, as well as on my right collarbone, near the shoulder. And when I cough, I feel pain in the right chest.

My conclusion is that I’d been masking misdiagnosed cancer symptoms with Ibuprofen. If I hadn’t been taking Ibuprofen for the past two weeks, I might have felt this deep chest pain. Or these tumors are really growing so quickly that it’s gone from a little shooting pain to deep chest in just two weeks’ time.

So I’ve got to get started on chemo immediately. Since we know for sure now that there IS cancer in my chest and not just pinched nerves, I’m really worried about the pain I’m feeling. I could live with this pain and discomfort forever if I knew it was just damaged nerves, but knowing that it’s cancer growing inside me and trying to take over and kill me… it’s giving me the creeps.

Tony and I saw “Bourne Ultimatum” last night. We needed to get our minds off cancer. In the movie, Matt Damon’s character tells another CIA agent that is now being targeted for assassination, “They’ll come back for you. You have to run.” Then she gets on a bus to try to disappear and escape certain death. I thought how impossible a life on the run would be, always looking over your shoulder, afraid that someone will jump out from behind a door and kill you. I thought that if I were ever hunted, I couldn’t run. I’d turn around and face the fight because dying like that would be better than living a half-life in fear of death every second. And then a thought occurred to me. I just got the same warning – “They’ll come back for you.” These cancer cells will keep coming for me. Except I can’t run. I have no choice but to fight. That makes the decision a lot easier.

And the moral of the story is… I’d rather have cancer than be an ex-CIA agent on the run, targeted by my former bosses for assassination.

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