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Time for My Next Checkup

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Next Monday I have my six month screening and checkup with my oncologist. Each time this visit with my doctor comes up, I get the jitters several days prior to it. I can't help it. And although my conscious mind knows this is why I'm a little more tense than usual, my unconscious mind is playing havoc through my, sometimes incomprehensible, but strange dreams.

I have just graduated to every six months. Before it was every four months. I had to go through this three times a year instead of the two times I will have to now.

These appointments are a necessary evil for cancer survivors. It brings you back to all the memories of operations and treatment. The smell, the sounds, the visuals of the hospital, all bring back that part of your life you could just as soon forget. It reminds you that you are vulnerable, and brings you back to the day that you faced your greatest fears.

I don't think these pre-appointment jitters will every go away, but I deal with them, more effectively as time goes by, in my way.

I usually visualize how my appointment will unfold. The nurse will get the needle into my arm for those blood tests on the first try. This is the first, but most important stumbling block for me, as it was the hardest part of my chemotherapy treatments. As all those who have undergone chemotherapy know, your veins collapse and become too small to insert an intravenous needle. As treatments progress, it becomes harder and harder to find a "good" vein, and they progressively work up your arm. Now, three years later, my veins have never fully recovered, so blood tests bring all those vivid memories right back, and makes getting into a vein on the first poke, very tricky.

So I visualize a cheerful nurse, who loves her job successfully tapping into one of my veins (left arm only, as the right arm had lymph nodes removed), and successfully filling the vials of blood required to be tested. I then wait for my turn with my oncologist. This takes awhile, as the doctor needs the results of my blood tests before he can examine me. So I sit in the waiting room with the other patients. Some, like me, are finished treatment, and are going for a follow up. Others are waiting for the green light from their oncologist so that they can get their next treatment. Still others are there, scared, perhaps for the first time.

While I sit and wait, I tend to try to speak to the other patients; particularly the ones who are there by themselves. Sometimes it doesn't require speaking at all, but an understanding look and a warm smile on my face will suffice. This is also part of my visualization. It's a connection with people who are starting their personal journey, and scared, and others who have been there. We form a bond in our unusual way.

I continue to think of my discussion with the doctor. The good news that my test results will be terrific, and the list of questions, written on that scrunched up piece of paper in my hands, that I will go over with him. I really need to get them all in, because I won't be back for another six months.

Besides visualization, it's important for me to relieve the additional stress through exercise. I have been exercising more regularly and probably twice as much over the last two weeks, probably urged on by my mighty subconscious. I have been running, cycling and weight lifting more than ever during this time.

Lastly, but most importantly, I am going to pay a visit to my pivot nurse, Dail following my appointment. I rarely see her since the end of my chemotherapy treatments, although (and I have told her this before) she has really been my lifeline to the clinic since then. I am looking forward to seeing her, and will go bearing gifts.

I am donating the wig I used to wear, when I had no hair, to the hospital that gave me my life back, and more. I have offered to speak to other cancer patients, or at fundraising events for the charities that are there to help us. Paying forward can go a long way to taking the damper off of the more unpleasant events in a cancer survivor's life. It makes going to the hospital something to look forward to as well.