The Other Shoe

The world of NED (no evidence of disease) can be exciting and disconcerting at the same time. Let me explain myself. I paid a visit Friday to my oncologist. It was just a local inspection. He always sees me about a month after my appointments in Houston. They maintain my port at the cancer center and he likes to keep abreast of my status and throw a stethoscope on my chest to listen to my heart and lungs that way, if I run into any trouble, he is always up to speed on me. I have taken to going alone to these appointments. He doesn't even draw lab work anymore so they are a fairly uncomplicated event. I arrived at the offices early allowing myself plenty of time to check in. The girls at the desk know me well and we chat about weather and family for a minute and they compliment me on how great I look while they activate me in the computer and hand me my med sheet. After my pager has been secured in my pocket I head to the business office to pay my "cover charge". I return to the waiting room which is packed to the brim and probably over flowing into the hospitality room located down the hall. It is always this way here. The bane of my existence is not one that I suffer with alone. Cancer afflicts all humanity at an alarming rate. I find a chair in the main waiting area and make myself comfortable. When you have a noon appointment you can just expect to wait a while so I start up a text conversation with my favorite and only sister. I make eye contact with every one seated around me. A mother and daughter wearing matching style striped shirts, one green and one navy. (I am smiling as type that:), a family that clearly was new to the office and to cancer demonstrated by their conversation along with the new patient bag stuffed with copious amounts materials, and an elderly woman with oxygen on with a pink turban covering her bare head. She smiled at me up through lash-less blue eyes. I smile back as her eyes glance at my short hair and then fall to my chest. I almost laugh out loud knowing that she is wondering if my boobs are real or reconstructed. If she only knew she needed to look much lower and from behind to root out where evil took hold of my body. I continue to smile at her as her mind makes the assumption that most do as they look my way. Her gaze breaks when her pager jars her from her musings about me and my body. She signals her son to push her chair to follow the MA that has summoned her to the treatment room. I am really not bothered by what she is thinking, or anybody else for that matter. I truly look like an Olympic athlete compared to most of the people in the waiting rooms that I perch myself in these days. With the pallor of treatment lifted from me by these last nine months of recovery and my sun kissed skin reflecting a vacation well spent I look the picture of middle aged health. I don't look the part of stage IV cancer of any kind. 

My oncologist's MA then comes to the desk and I watch her punch a number into the paging device on the desk and then feel a familiar buzz in my pocket. I rise and go to her leaving the pager in my pocket instead of placing it in her outstretched palm. I inform her that I have port flush to follow my appointment. She nods at me and compliments me on how good I am looking. I respond that I am feeling good too. I am weighed and then led back to an exam room where my blood pressure, which was perfect by the way, was checked and my medications updated in the EMR. She notes my reports from Houston are in the system and then congratulates me on my NED status. I feel like hero in a parade for a minute except I really didn't do anything to earn any accolades. She leaves me with my thoughts to wait for the doctor. A few minutes later he comes in. He has such a ridiculous grin on his face I can't help but grin back. He tells me I am excellent and I thank him laughing as I utter the words of gratitude. We discuss my pneumonia briefly and listens carefully to my lungs and heart. We discuss my next follow up, which will be a month after my next round of tests at MDA unless I need him before then. I puzzle about my miraculous level of health and wonder aloud about what could be next for me. He tells me he's not sure but whatever I am doing to keep it up and we hug exiting the exam room together. 

What a nice story, right? You might be wondering where the disconcertion comes in. Life with unexpected NED is very exciting, it's true. I have been afforded an unanticipated extended gift of time that few with stage IV cancer receive. What comes with that is a feeling of insecurity. It can be described well with the common metaphor of "waiting for the other shoe to drop". It is an undercurrent in my life. A riptide, unseen by most, below the surface of my existence. I respond to that by getting up each day, living intentionally, putting my shoes on and smiling. I tie my shoes on extra tight in these days of NED. The way I figure it the other shoe will have a hard time dropping if I have it tied securely and continue to walk on. 

Annabelle, Betsy threw a punch at your cancer.
Pam sent you a prayer.
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So glad to hear how well you are doing!
Michele likes this comment
You and NED obviously have a love affair going and here's hoping it is a lasting one! Congrats on the good report and, like your doc says, whatever you're doing, just keep doing it! Love and Hugs!
Michele likes this comment
I so understand. We are taught by our strongest and most inspiring mentors to leave the insecurity behind, and instead be faithful, present and grateful. Pretty often I can be those last 3 things, but insecurity about losing that other shoe is so ready to launch. All I can really say with certainty is, "Yahoo and more yahoo, Michele is still NED and living large!"
Michele, Shara like this comment
I hear that sister!! XOXO
Michele likes this comment
Beautiful, Michele. Thank you.
Michele likes this comment
Awesome!...hugs and love and always prayers Sabina
Michele likes this comment
Ned + Michelle = Awesome!!!

(glue those shoes on!)
Michele likes this comment
Congratulations on your continued NED. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
Michele likes this comment
I am right there with you. I'm 8 months post treatment with a NED from June 2nd. Heading to Houston Sept. 8th for my next 3 month follow-up. It helps knowing there are other stage IV survivors out there...I start feeling like my shoe is dangling on my toes a couple weeks before my follow-ups (especially this time around). Time to grab it, secure it and keep walking!
Michele likes this comment
How you always manage so eloquently to writ down what we all go through. I am just over three years clear. Next scans middle of October and although I am fit and well - and everyone tells me how good I look - I am just starting the build up of "what if's". Every little thing (& they are little) sets my heart racing and I have to calm myself and carry on. So I will tie my shoes even tighter today. Hugs Annabelle
PS I am on Linkedin by default. Imagine my surprise & delight when the other day they asked me if I knew the following people & I saw you!!! Don't know how to work it but kept looking at your picture. xxxx
Michele likes this comment
So happy to hear how good you are doing! Keep on doing what you have been doing and inspiring us that we too can reach that Ned status!
Michele likes this comment
I'm so glad you're doing so well, Michele.
Michele likes this comment
WooHoo!!!
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Vital Info

Posts

October 3, 2011

Click Here

January 31, 1963

Cancer Info

Anal Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the anus

February 5, 2010

Stage 4

2.1 - 3.0 cm

Grade 3

No

As much as possible

Proceeds from my published blog donated monthly

It is a thief

You have to live every day of your life and stay positive :)

Donate $$ to the anal cancer foundation. Raising awareness saves lives!

Is there anything good about poison?

Bone, lung recurrence 9/20/2012

Cancer Center of Kansas, MD Anderson

Bland diet, sitz baths, take your drugs...nobody gets extra credit for suffering.

Talk, talk, talk to somebody. I chose to write.

April 20, 2010

September 20, 2010

Rectal bleeding, itching, sciatic pain. (thought my hemorhoid was acting up)

My blog has been published and proceeds go to The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. http://tinyurl.com/72bjjfp

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