Thursday’s bike ride took me down the hill and east for a gym class and brunch with my dear friend and work wife. We call it “brexercise,” and it had been over a week since we did that, and that turned out to be too long. I was in a good mood. The lifted heat wave has been a treat, and having some time away from the office, even more so. I was happy to see my friend, and my body was feeling strong. And I knew I was going to get to see my radiation oncologist for a routine follow up, and I just love her, the radiation oncology nurse, the techs, everybody. I saw them all the time in one of the lowest times in my life, and I was looking forward to seeing them in this, a seriously great time in my life, which I’m getting in no small part due to their work.
And then it was an hour before my appointment and my mood shifted, led by my body. I started to feel anxious. For me that means a faster heart rate, a roiling gut, and the desire and inability to jump out of my own skin. I wasn’t nervous that I’d get bad news. I save those nerves for scans, as the chance a palpable lump has jumped up since my gyn felt my breasts last month and my MRI came back clean in May seems pretty slim. I think the nerves are more about what you might call “triggers” or “PTSD.” Nothing to do but ride it out, which is what I did after wrapping up lunch and our gossip session and heading east and north to the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
I love riding my bike here because I always get a parking spot right in front, as pictured here, and there’s something tough-sounding, to me, about riding a bike to see cancer doctors. I walked in, all nerves, stopped at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The kind pharmacist walked me patiently through the touchscreen signatures and acceptances as I trembled. I called my sister from the lobby–where I’d been sitting when she called to tell me SHE had cancer too–and got a pep talk. I elevatored down to the basement, checked in with my Orange Card from treatment days, because I’ll always be a VIP at the radiation center.
The technician called my name (sort of–I respond to “Drabzinski” even though my last name is “Drabinski”). She was so happy to see me, told me about what she’s been up to these last few months, admired my hair growth. Ruth, the greatest nurse of all time, greeted me with a big hug. Dr. Alcorn did the same, so happy to see me and that I’m doing well. All nerves were gone. These folks are amazing, and though they and I both hope I’ll keep seeing them less and less, I know I can call them at any time for any cancer-related need. “We can see you same day or next day, just call us directly.” Thank you. Because cancer isn’t over when you’re out of treatment. The recurrence risk for me is not low–a 1 in 10 chance it will metastasize in the next ten years. A third of early stage breast cancers spread and kill. Those numbers sound good compared to many other cancers, but when it’s you and your life, they are a lot to carry. Truth is, though, we are all going to die, of something. I am just more intimately aware of what might kill me than I used to be.
I left the appointment much lighter. I headed home, protected cycletracks almost the entire way. Thank you, infrastructure changes! And see you in November, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, hopefully not any sooner.