Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Scan Anxiety

MRI machine at Seaside Imaging Center
MRI machine at Seaside Imaging Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've had another round of scans -- bone scan, pet scan, CT scan, angiography -- and then, just to mix things up a bit, I fell down a few stairs fracturing my ankle and shoulder. It was hard to take all this in stride. My fears got the best of me. I imagined the worst.

I gather that most people with metastases imagine the worst every time they schedule their scans. If they don't, their denial reflexes must work out at the gym every day.

Everything but the fractures turned out fine. For the time being I'm hobbling around with a hard boot and a sling, some pain, no treadmill, and new bars on the toilet so I can get up and down. One of my docs said he'd write me a prescription that said " Be more careful, Ruth." And how well could I  manage without Glenn to literally lend me a hand to get in and out of chairs and the car?

Between the cancer and my broken leg I have had plenty of time to do nothing but try to keep my anxiety under control. Writing helps, so here goes.

I broke my leg skiing when I was a junior in high school. Time and treatments sure have  changed. That year I spent four months in a plaster cast from my toes to my hip.  But I was young and not one to complain. Well, I didn't think of all that whining as complaining.

I spent the first week in the hospital. The doctor told me that  my discharge would depend on Friday's x-rays.  If the bones weren't set right he'd have to break and re-set them again. At least that's what I thought he said. Re-break my leg? That scared me silly AND there was a party I didn't want t miss Friday night. I guess I did complain.

The hospital was so full  they put me in a private room on the men's floor. (Yes, just like the help wanted ads, the wards were segregated by gender  then.) Every day a little Italian man walked the corridor in his johnny and slippers. Initially he ignored me--wouldn't even make eye contact as he passed my door-- but with each day that passed he became more chatty until he finally came right in and made himself at home. He wanted me to know all the things a young  girl with a broken leg would have to endure. It was quite an assortment of things.

Most distressing was his prediction that my leg would hurt for the rest of my life whenever the wind blew in the same direction it was blowing when I fell and heard that terrible crack.

Another fond memory of that spring hobbling around with cast and crutches was Stephen's high  school graduation. He was  my new boyfriend and graduating from a a proper New England prep school. He cared about what others thought of him and he wanted me, as an extension of him, to impress.

 I had a new chic yellow sheath dress  to wear to the graduation, which would be my first event without plaster. But In those days  people  autographed your cast and mine looked pretty grungy.  You know, roses are red, etc. But, the cast was scheduled to come off the week before his graduation.  I thought, let's give this blasted cast a royal send-off.  I invited friends to forsake their ballpoint pen quips, grab magic markers and go to it. My last week encased in plaster would be glorious.

Surprise, surprise. That same doctor let me down. The cast didn't come off as expected  It would stay for at least one more week of sponge baths, manipulating knitting needles inside the cast to scratch that incessant itching, and now wearing a cast that flaunted flowers, serpents, animals, dirt from four months of traipsing through the streets, off-color rhymes and crumbling plaster around the toes.   At graduation I looked lovely if you ignored my cast. I looked like tthe advent of the sixties if you ignored my lovely but  conservative dress. But, I must admit, either way we made a striking couple.

Last week while I waited and called and waited some morefor the results of my scans I thought about those adolescent years, chuckled at the memories and reflected on the changes. The heavy black plastic holding my ankle in place resists cast graffiti and comes off for a shower. The fall has complicated my life for the short term. But here's what I've learned in the intervening years:

  • That little Italian man was wrong. My leg doesn't hurt when the wind blows
  • No one at Stephen's graduation cared about the hippie-esque cast
  • The man you're with will always cares about how you look
  • This cancer and the fall/break are unrelated
So, given the circumstances I'm doing fine. I hope you're doing fine, too.

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