Friday, October 20, 2006

Musings and Body Sensations

It's been a while since I posted on the blog, and I'm acutely aware of that. Some of it is that my real, full-time, paying job has been demanding more attention, and the full-time, non-paying job of cancer has slipped into second place. For now, at least. The other part is that I was out of town last week for a professional conference, in New Orleans, seeing colleagues I generally see only once a year and exploring the city, post-Katrina. The conference was good, New Orleans was both sad and hopeful (bittersweet, like cancer?), and seeing my long-distance friends and eating great food was wonderful.

My body has had a few sensations that have taken my attention. Last week, my abdomen was sore as it hasn't been since the summer. I puzzled and worried about it for a few days, and then remembered that I had carried a kayak for a few hundred yards at the beginning of the week. The soreness went away, and I realized that it was probably more weight than I should have carried, even 4 1/2 months post surgery.

Then there was the firm spot in my abdomen, toward the end of my surgical scar. I felt that almost two weeks ago for the very first time, and puzzled and worried about it, but knew I wouldn't do anything right away, as I was going to the conference. So I prodded and pushed and worried when I remembered it, and a week later, I described it to the nurse case manager from my HMO in a phone call. Since I'm seeing my primary care doctor this coming Monday, I told her that I would have my doctor check it out. Instead, she encouraged me to call my surgeon about it. She sounded worried for me, and I had wanted to talk to the surgeon anyway, so I called and got an appointment the next day.

The surgeon had a great explanation for it. He is 99% sure that it's a knot of thread, used to stitch up the fascia (under the skin). They started at the center point on my incision and stitched toward my side, and when they get to the end, they made a big knot. Although the thread will dissolve eventually, he said it's not unusual to feel it (or to see it during subsequent surgery) within a year of the surgery itself. And, if he's wrong and it's a little spot of cancer growing, it's in the fat tissue and they wouldn't do anything until they have a better sense about what's happening. So, he'll check out my next CT scan to see what it looks like.

We also talked about the possibility of removing my cancerous bile duct (called a Whipple procedure) if I continue to feel good and the cancer hasn't spread and I am one year or so post surgery. I almost hate to admit my hopefulness for this, because the future is as uncertain as ever, and I just keep working to take my life one day at a time. So, I go through my life as well as I can, and try not to project into the future too much. Still, when I got the clean scan in September, Patty said "Let's use this time to talk about a cure, a real cure!" I knew I wanted to talk about the possibility of surgery with the doctor who did the surgery last May.

My next CT is scheduled for Nov. 17, with the new oncologist on the job. I hate changing physicians under any circumstances, and now I have to get used to someone new!

So, that's it. Next week marks 5 months post diagnosis, and I continue to feel good. The quiet around my disease is welcome, yet strange, and feels like part of this shift from acute to chronic. I've had these little worries over the past two weeks, and I'm fine and I'm working and I'm enjoying my family and my life.

No comments: