It’s Friday afternoon and I’m at a work holiday party, chowing down on some low iodine approved salad and guacamole (my pre radiation diet is in full effect) and my phone rings. It’s my endocrinologist’s office:
Office: “Lucy the doctor has received your latest blood results and he needs to see you much sooner than scheduled”
Me: “Oh. How much sooner. I have radiation therapy next week. Should it be before then?”
Generally I’m a pretty calm person. My husband always goes worst case. I go best case. We meet in the middle as a perfectly balanced pair. I’m calm. Well. I was calm…..
Office: “I’m not telling you to drop everything but he needs to see you as soon as possible”
The conversation went on where I’m identifying if this is a literal life and death situation of if I have a day or two to find a time open in my calendar, normal work life. Shift some meetings. Skip a lunch, work in another hospital appointment for this thing called cancer. Turns out I need to go immediately.
My heart is pounding and I’m trying to stay calm. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable non scary reasons he could need to see me right away…..right? I call Joel.
Engaging my most hopefully, calm voice and ask him if he can drop everything and meet me at the doctor for some urgent non discript news.
Next I call my Mum. Same calm voice. Same conversation.
“Yes. I’m fine. I’m sure it’s nothing. Yes. Just spoken to Joel. He’s coming. OK. See you soon. Love you”
As I gather my things and on my way out, two friends see me in the hallway, we had plans to go out that night to celebrate promotions and good times. They hug me and one says “no matter what, tonight we drink champagne to celebrate everything is fine or we drink champagne to get you through this. Your army is assembled and ready to battle”. – My friends are amazing. They get me. They know what I need and they just hold me up. I’m sure they noticed me holding back tears because my mind was racing all the while I’m saying “I’m fine”. My standard response these last few months.
There are those days when an hour flies by. There are days when an hour feels like an eternity. This day an hour felt like an eternity.
My Dad has told me recently how I just handle things. I’m calm. I’m logical. I take everything in my stride. Even with everything going on these last few months. I remain practical and focused.
This day I was like a duck in water; calm above the surface, kicking like hell to stay afloat under the surface. I’m not afraid to admit it.
My logical side said it was nothing. My emotional side was racing. Blood work results. What could be urgent in blood work results? Remember my best case vs Joel’s worst case? This day, this Friday afternoon I let myself go worst case. As I drove to meet Joel. As we walked through the hallways of the hospital and as we held hands and waited and waited and waited to be called by the doctor in the waiting room…. I psyched myself up. I ran scenarios and plans through my head. To me. Worst case. The blood work. My worst case. The logical worst case was leukaemia. I sat in that waiting room. Holding Joel’s hand. Chatting about everything and nothing to keep our minds off things, my worst case was saying the words in my head so that when they came out of the mouth of the doctor I was already ready for it. I would breathe. Swallow. Nod and say “OK. What’s next?”.
The door opens and the doctor calls my name. Joel squeezes my hand and in we go. Before we even sit down the doctor starts talking. My body tenses up. Here we go. I’m ready.
“Lucy, my dear. I received your lab results today…”
“We need to lower some of your medication. It’s too high. I wanted to see you sooner rather than later”
I’m sure. If you were in that room with me last Friday you would have heard the exhale of carbon dioxide from my body. You would have seen the tension in my shoulders flood out of me. The weight lifted from me. From Joel, and as he immediately messaged my Mum and Best friend, miles away, I’m sure their relief was audible too.
When I relayed this story to one of my friends here in DC on Friday evening, she said
“I am so sorry that you experienced that moment, and you live with that fear. Sending big hugs, love and relief your way.”
That text, in that moment made me realise the huge change in my life, that I’ve been brushing off with “I’m fine” – the change that she recognised. That my mind went to the logical step, that my mind took me from my best case to worst case. That cancer. As mild as it has been. As uncomplicated as it has been, has changed me to look at a worst case as the possible option for my life. A fear I would not wish on anyone. That fear that so many people every day live with as a reality.
My heart hurts for every adult who hears those words and every parent who hears those words about their child.
Last Friday I was a lucky one.
For everyone fighting that realisation. That truth. My every inch of being is in pain and sorrow for you.
Life is too damn short. Life is unfair. But as I sat back and looked at my daughter this weekend, at my husband and parents and my friends. I, as ever recognise how wonderful life can also be – to have this love and light and strength around me to hold my hand, hug me tight and keep me going even when I’m hiding my emotions and fear – as we sat down to dinner Friday night. My army assembled – we said a toast to friends and good health and we laughed so hard we cried. It takes a village to get through life’s ups and downs and I have a pretty incredible village.
Next up: Full body scan and radioactive iodine treatment (radiation) on Wednesday.