Oncology Tour 2013 continues

Before I was sick, I had virtually never set foot in a hospital. In fact, really only two hospital experiences come to mind:

The first was when I was about 6 or 7. I was walking down a dingy hallway with well-worn gray carpet, a seemingly endless tunnel of taupe doors stretching out before us in a strange visual illusion. Staring ahead at this Mobius strip of a hospital corridor, I accidentally stepped in a puddle of vomit.

The other was when I was about 17, and my dad had his gallbladder removed. I visited him in the hospital afterwards, but he was groggy and nonsensical. Then he vomited. He swears the vomit part of this story didn’t happen, but he was on drugs and I know the truth.

So basically, my hospital experiences had, up until this point, been significantly tainted by barf. Now, however, my hospital resume is rapidly expanding. I’ve seen all different parts of hospitals, like in-patient rooms, clinics, bathrooms, waiting areas, phlebotomy labs, infusion suites, check-in desks, and parking garages. I’m a veritable connoisseur of hospital decor. Note to healthcare interior designers: Less grey, it’s depressing.

I haven’t been updating much this week because Gordie’s in town, and we’ve been attempting to enjoy ourselves like a normal 20-something couple as much as we can. In spite of the whirlwind tour he’s gotten of the weird, secret, hidden world of sick people that you only get to see once you become direly ill yourself (hint: not worth it), we have managed to have a couple of nice dates. Plus, one of the 200 oncologists I’m still speed-dating gave me the A-OK to drink alcohol, so I enjoyed a delicious Shock Top the other night and forgot for about 20 minutes that I’m a cancer patient.

My personal episode of America’s Next Top Oncologist continues. This week, we saw four doctors, and I have two clear frontrunners I’m trying to decide between. One, Dr. A, is a calm, reassuring man who always makes me feel like everything’s going to be alright. The other, Dr. R, is a bold, confident woman who doesn’t sugarcoat anything. I like Dr. A’s demeanor, but I love that Dr. R drives the bus, so I don’t have to worry about deciding everything.

That’s something weird that no one tells you about cancer – there’s an awful lot of deciding to do. Mastectomy or lumpectomy? TCH or ACT? Neulasta’s unbearable bone pain or take your chances with a lowered white blood count? Freeze your eggs or leave your fertility to fate? Some people might enjoy that kind of self-directed care, but I don’t. For God’s sake, I’m 25. I haven’t even decided what I want to wear today, but I’m supposed to decide which treatment plan is the most likely to prevent an early death? I’m not a doctor, that’s why I’m seeing you! Decide for me!

Update on Operation Oocytes: Still waiting on my uterus, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about whether or not the delay in treatment and all the extra needle sticks will be worth it. Things move fast in the IVF world, because menstrual cycles are unpredictable and everything needs to be in place immediately, so I feel like I’m getting a phone call every day from one doctor or another asking for an update on my monthly visitor. Dr. R is confident that deciding to go ahead with fertility preservation won’t alter my prognosis, but she insists that I need to be able to believe her if things go pear-shaped. It’s an awful lot to think about, so the deliberations continue.

Wanting to have things in place just in case, I had blood drawn yesterday for all of the tests that fertility clinic requires. I was handed a piece of paper with virtually every single box checked, and needed about a dozen vials of blood taken. As I was waiting in the lab, another young man was sitting across from me. He was reading a packet I immediately recognized – his pathology report. It looked a lot like mine. His face conveyed that it wasn’t good news. I could see the boxes indicating it was a cancerous tumor they’d removed, although I didn’t know from what organ. When asked by the doctor, he gave his birth year as 1986.

“Hey man,” I said, thinking about how weird it was we were in this boat together.

“Hey,” he replied. “How’s it going?”

I just laughed, because he, of all people, already knew.

5 thoughts on “Oncology Tour 2013 continues

  1. Peter Henningsen says:

    Hey Michelle,
    I’m really sorry to hear about all this happening to you. My mother got diagnosed about 2 years ago (she’s fine now, thankfully), and, while I still can’t imagine what it’s like to be the one going through all this, I remember what a bitch the whole process seemed like from the outside. Your blog is awesome, though, and I’m PARTICULARLY glad to hear you’re allowed to drink again. Times like this are why alcohol was invented.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery,
    Peter Henningsen

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks Peter! Sorry to hear that your mom went through this, but I’m so glad she’s doing well. I hope things are still going great at the Brandcenter. I heard you met up with my girlcrush Steph a bit ago and had a good time. Wish I was there to have a beer with you both!

  2. Fire Penguin says:

    Rule Number 3. Don’t barf.

  3. Britt says:

    You are so adorable and funny I nearly forget I’m reading a CANCER blog. What a gift you are giving to the scads of people who will need to know that you are very much OK, very much still YOU. Well, done there. Welcome to The World’s Shittiest Sorority. Luckily, most of us blog (with considerable less pluck than you, clever girl) and can tell you that Neulasta isn’t so awful if you take a Claritin the night before, and that having an oncologist with a plan and opinion is important, and that silicone is so much more comfy than those god-awful expanders. I can’t help but follow (or keep you in my prayers). xoxo

  4. Hey. Congrats on becoming a Freshly Pressed Feature. I love the title of your blog, and your posts are both frank and humorous on a topic which could have you wallowing in self pity. I wish you a full recovery, and shall visit again to track your progress.

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