Sunday, March 13, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #393

Nancy White Kelly

I write this column while being ordered to three days of bed rest. Weird things happen to my body, probably related to my battle with cancer. For those who are new to this column, I am a cancer survivor. The first brush with breast cancer occurred in the mid eighties. Following surgery and chemotherapy, I passed the much bally-hoed five year milestone.

Twelve years later, just as our son graduated from high school, the cancer metastasized to lungs and bone, including the spine. I have now consumed all the standard chemotherapies, plus the beams of radiation three times. I spent a while in hospice, but never gave in or up.

This column began in the late nineties as the Journal of a Dying Lady. At the insistence of my friends, the title changed to Journal of a Living Lady which is now a book. A brief stint on Oprah brought me notoriety beyond the local community.
Dealing with this disease has been a roller coaster ride, but I am grateful to have been stable for a couple of years. Stable is a very good word in the cancer world.
Cancer changed my life. My faith sustained me and still does. What once began as a sincere request to the Almighty to allow me live to see Charlie, then in kindergarten, graduate from high school brought me far more than I prayed for. A life verse I chose as a teenager bore true: “CALL UPON ME AND I WILL ANSWER THEE AND SHOW THEE GREAT AND MIGHTY THING WHICH THOU KNOWEST NOT.” Jeremiah 33:3.

Charlie, now a school teacher, graduated from college, married a wonderful girl, and has given us two adorable grandsons: Micah, age 6, and Noah, soon to be 4.

So why am I confined to bed? One word. Pain. While I am generally pain tolerant, this has been a 12 on a scale of 10. I woke up yesterday from a normal night’s rest to find myself in excruciating pain when I took my first step. I had not injured myself in anyway the day before. Now my right foot felt like an elephant had stomped on it. There was just no explanation.

Buddy, the most compassionate nurse a wife could hope for, tried to help. He brought hot water to soak the foot. He dashed to the drugstore for an elastic bandage which he lovingly wrapped. Still, as the day wore on, so did the pain which progressed to other parts of the same foot. Amidst declining protest, Buddy brought crutches from the garage and assisted me to the car. Something wasn’t right. Could it be a blood clot? Spontaneous fracture? Gout? Or tumors pressing nerves?

An unexpected push on the foot by the ER doctor elicited a loud scream. I apologized. How childish, but it hurt. The doctor ordered x-rays and blood tests. He returned almost an hour later shaking his head. This pain was as baffling to him as to me.

A similar incident happened a couple of months ago with alternating shoulders. The oncologist chalked it up to a new (and expensive) anti-cancer pill that I was taking. I discovered that severe joint pain was the top side effect. After stopping that pill, the pain eventually abated. However, this time a pill couldn’t be blamed. So what is causing such pain?

My oncologist doesn’t know. My general M.D. doesn’t know. The ER doctor doesn’t know. Where do I go from here? After a shot of Decadron, the physician gave the typical advice. I had already taken my aspirin for the day. His advice: “Go to bed and call if it isn’t better by Monday.”

Can’t wait to see the bill.

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