Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Radiology Follow-Up, One Year Later

Today I drove to Sacramento for a follow-up appointment with the radiologist who irradiated me from mid-March through early May of 2014. Before getting in the car, I paused for a moment to wonder whether I should look at a map first, in case I'd forgotten the way. But no: I drove there every weekday for almost seven weeks; even after a year away from there, I could still find my way there in my sleep.

After I got in the car, it occurred to me that I could have brought the hospital gown they gave me to wear during radiation treatments; it might be my last opportunity to wear it again. But really, who wants to go on thinking of themself as someone who comes to doctor appointments prepared with a hospital gown all their own because they need to wear it so often? So I didn't bring it.

During the drive, it occurred to me that I could have brought the mix CD from the care package that woo2step and recycledsilence sent me during treatment. (Thank you again for that.) Too late this time, but there will be future follow-up appointments that I may yet dig it out for.

I saw four cancer doctors last year: a surgical oncologist, a radiologist-oncologist, a hematologist-oncologist, and a supervising oncologist who oversaw the work of all three. When you are enduring terrible things, you tend to react more strongly than usual to any small kindness or unkindness, so cancer doctors are probably more likely to provoke strong feelings than general practitioners. I totally adored my surgeon; I felt that he consistently went very far out of his way to make sure I understood everything and felt free to make my own choices. But I will never have occasion to see him again unless I end up needing more surgery. Meanwhile, I totally abhorred my hematologist; I felt he talked down to me as if I were a five-year-old. And he is the person I was told would be in charge of all my follow-up care after this one final follow-up with the radiologist.

I felt nothing much either way about my radiologist or the supervising oncologist. I was very glad, though, to find out today that actually I will continue to have follow-up appointments with the radiologist for the next several years as well as with the hematologist. This means that at least there will be someone giving me information about cancer-related aftercare whom I do not intensely dislike. Yay.

Not all the news was good, though. The radiologist used the words "Because you're so young . . ." today. I heard these words a lot during cancer treatment, and in the context of cancer treatment, they are absolutely always bad news. They always mean that I have to endure worse things than older people do. In this case, today, it was, "Because you're so young, you have very dense breast tissue that mammograms can't image very well, so you should also get an MRI done every couple of years, and this of course increases the risk that we'll detect false positives and subject you to unnecessary biopsies." Not fun. My biopsy last year actually hurt worse than my lumpectomy did. And getting an MRI also means getting a needle stuck into a vein in my hand, which . . . well, I already explained last week how difficult my veins are. (The bruises on my forearms still haven't faded yet.) But I don't have to get my next MRI until winter, so I guess that's something. I have to get my next mammogram within the next month or so. Mammograms are not at all difficult as long as I don't allow myself to think about the fact that if the mammogram actually finds cancer in my right breast again the doctors are going to cut my right breast off. Probably within a couple of weeks. But hey! There is a 92% chance that my right breast will survive for decades to come. And an even better chance that my left breast will survive for decades to come. So probably I have nothing to worry about. Probably.

The radiologist was shocked to see how undamaged-looking my body is after all the radiation that her assistants sprayed at it last year. Yay? There is certainly damage, but it is a silly type of damage to complain about: "Give me back all the sweat glands and hair follicles you killed off in the lower half of my right armpit! It's not fair that I'm permanently stuck with 25% less stink-producing capacity than other people!" No one is ever likely to feel any pity for me over this. Mostly, the radiologist could hardly get over her amazement at my lack of any "discoloration," by which she meant that I did not acquire an oddly-shaped permanent tan on the irradiated portion of my body like almost everyone else ends up with after radiation treatment. Acquiring any sort of tan is just not something my body is capable of doing under any circumstances. Hooray for my pasty white skin! Really though, there are still all sorts of aesthetically unpleasant side effects that may yet set in in future years. Not yet, though. For now I look great! Though it would be more satisfying if anyone other than doctors were looking at me and saying so. Apparently I can't have everything. Stinking 25% less than other people is the extent of my superpowers. Well, if I ever have to have even more unpleasant medical procedures in the future, I hope one of them comes with the "after this, you'll be able to have everything" bonus.
Tags: cancer
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