Saturday, March 30, 2013

A day of reflecting.

Vilma Griffiths, BSN, RN, OCN
On my visit Thursday, I tried to get on the scale fully loaded: water bottle & heavy purse. The friendly but gimlet-eyed nurse spied what I was up to ~ foiled! ~ and asked me to put them aside before getting on the scale. Earlier in the week, I contemplated wearing my cowboy boots and filling up the extra room around my legs with spare change & claiming any jingling sound was from my spurs. I still managed to keep my jacket on and I thought heavy thoughts as I was weighed. Two pounds up from last weigh-in & for the first time in months there was no concern voiced over my weight.

Vilma, the nurse who has been with me for my decent & travels through Radiation Valley and the climb back out, chatted with me for a bit about function levels of taste, swallowing, pain, etc... She is always ready with a warm hug and a genuine interest in my well-being. God bless her!


I waited in Examining Room 8, anticipating a fuller report of good news on my cancer, after getting the brief email that the PET scan looked good. I thought about all the other people sitting in the other rooms up and down the hallway, waiting to hear... what? What kind of days do my medical people have, breaking bad news in one room and good news in the next? How do they insulate their psyches?

Right Now, In The Moment, I feel optimistic and will try to live currently rather than Future-ly. I am doing all I have been instructed to do to keep good health. Am I living now as if this could be my last month/year/decade? No. I feel like I'm still waiting for other events to play out. I'm waiting for my husband to not have to work seven days a week. I'm waiting for my son to be settled and happy in his college/job/marriage. There's stuff I would like to do; go out West & dig for fossils and pan for gold; walk on a warm beach & look for shells. The reality is: Our son Phil will be just fine. He is a good, smart, mature young man. Craig will probably be working seven days a week for quite a while yet, as Phil has a bit of schooling to go and Craig is a Good Provider. I need to find a satisfying pursuit so I can continue to live in the Present and stop doing the what-ifs about the Future, whether they be happy or sad. I'm on the brink of something.

I think Craig & I were in this same room when we met Dr. Ahn for the first time after my operations and before the radiation. Dr. Ahn told us of all the side effects of radiation, and they were legion. This radiation treatment, provided by the nation's top Head & Neck specialists, would hopefully eradicate any cancer cells that eluded TORS. When I thought of the Now and the Future (survival!), the future side effects of radiation seemed distant and oh so minor after a cancer diagnose. "After Treatment" seemed so very far off as we all sat in Examination Room 8 on November 12, 2012. I remember Dr. Ahn having a moment's trouble figuring out the number of days for something and I piped up, "Wait ~ an Asian who can't do math?" For an uneasy second, my heart stopped, as he was silent. "Crap!", I thought in a panic, "I've offended my doctor on our first meeting!" "Hey, that's prejudiced!", says Dr. Ahn in an upbeat tone, and everything was okay.

Over four months later, I sit in the very same big beige chair as Dr. Ahn numbed my nose for a look down the pipes. He and I both watched the video screen which showed the progress of the teeny video camera up my nose & down my throat to the area where the tumor had been. There was a smooth, flat, yellowish scar area there. Dr. Ahn says they see this type of presentation sometimes & will keep an eye on it. He told me of some things to possibly expect in the future:
• 40% patients develop a thyroid issue, because the thyroid is radiated during treatment. My blood will be tested for thyroid function twice a year. 
• There is a possibility of a blood clot forming from my carotid artery also getting radiated. This clot could break off and possibly cause a stroke. I will see a Cardiologist who will monitor me.
Both of these possibilities are easily treated with... a pill. It looks like a freakin' pill case may be in my future after all. It's gonna be the prettiest damn pill case I can find!


After my appointment, I felt peace. I decided to finally check out the Penn Museum. I felt insignificant as I viewed various scraps and shards which were all that were left of entire civilizations which rose into being & fell into obscurity. What does my one little puff of life matter? Millions have risen & fallen before me and perhaps millions more after me. I wandered past statues of great kings, whose very names were lost in the obscurity of time. I thought of the Bible verse: "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass wither, and the flower thereof falls away: but the word of the Lord endures forever." 

I wandered into the China Gallery, which is housed in the tall round tower that I used to look down at from various hospital windows and wonder about. This Gallery was my favorite room. It housed sophisticated sculptures and delightful novelties.
When I left & walked up the sidewalk between the hospital and the museum, I felt that a chapter in my journey was at a close. I had vowed that I would get to this museum as I would look down on the tall round brick tower from my different hospital rooms and wondered what was inside.
Main hospital at HUP where I would look out windows
& speculate on the contents of the "Round" tower.
That curious round tower!

Something kind of bazaar...

Some minutes after getting the news that my PET Scan was clear, I happened to look down at my left palm and saw a little cut that I didn't remember getting. It started at the bottom of what I think is my palm's Life Line and extended for 3/4's of an inch further. I'm taking it to mean that my life had just been extended :)


  1. Susan, you continue to amaze me with your gift of words in this blog. Blog seems too casual a word as what you write here reflects the very essence of who you are. Your incredible sense of humor entertains, at the very least, but inspires profoundly. You have been face-to-face with your own mortality in a way only those with a cancer diagnosis can understand, I imagine. However, you ask questions or express thoughts that EVERY person must grapple with. God has a plan for each one of us. He is certainly working through you in a powerful way in the writing of "Cancer Schmancer. " Thank you for opening your heart in sharing your experiences.

    1. Hi Camille, thanks for reading!

      I am humbled by your great words of praise ~~ but lapping them up all the same :)