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High Risk Decisions

"Anger is just anger. It isn't good. It isn't bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It's like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice."

~Jim Butcher


(Side note: I'm writing all this for me. I want to remember the emotions I feel, the confusion, the vulnerability. If someone who has to go through this reads and learns that she is not alone in what she experiences, it will be an added blessing for me.)


A high school friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that I would go through a series of emotions (sadness, depression anger, worry), and the anger finally engulfed me. It all started with my appointment with the oncologist told me I was at high risk for recurrence. Until that appointment, I had felt relieved and somewhat safe. HIGH RISK. Seeing that on the genome report, though, changed everything. HIGH RISK. Two words suddenly made me feel so angry.


My anger grew during another doctor's appointment, this time with the radiation oncologist.

I really don't know why I needed to meet with him as the chemotherapy starts before radiation. He had little to say except that I have not healed enough yet to start radiation, and since I need the chemo, well, it was a moot point anyway. At least he looked at and talked to me when I asked questions.


"I have one more question," I informed him. "We're planning to move. Can I wait until we get to Tampa to start all of this at Moffitt, or can I start here and continue at Moffitt?"


"Moffitt is a great cancer center," Dr. M told me. "They will take very good care of you." I repeated my questions about starting here and there, and he got suddenly wishy-washy. "We'll have to ask Dr. X," he concluded. I did not want to hear that.


Worse, I did not want to have to talk to Dr. X, but Dr. M insisted on bringing him over to me. Mike went out to the waiting room so that the oncologist would talk to me this time. When Dr. X finally came in, a student nurse practitioner and another student of some sort accompanied him. While he directed most of his comments to me, he did look at them a few times.


He started to go over the same thing he told Mike/me last week,: I am HIGH RISK. I stopped him. "I understand all that," I said. "We are planning to move, and I need to decide what to do." He started again with the damn numbers and percentages. "I researched all of this," I interrupted. "I am trying to decide what to do. When would you start this?" "Next week," he informed me, "you would start, and then I would see you again in 10 days to take blood." For the second time, I asked him about starting treatment in Las Vegas and continuing in Tampa at Moffitt. He seemed miffed. "No," he snapped. "You cannot move until you finish everything here." I knew that wasn't true.


When he wanted to schedule my first treatment, I told him I wanted to talk with my husband. He was incredulous and demanded that I let them know by the end of the day. I told him I would not make the decision that quickly. There is no use in my relating the rest of the conversation as it ended pretty quickly after I said I'd let him know when I was ready.


I walked out of that office angry and more confused. I emailed my nurse at Moffitt and talked to my cousin who teaches nursing. I'm HIGH RISK. Should I stay in Las Vegas and have chemo? Should I go to Moffitt for treatment? Should I start here and finish there? Should I/Could I delay treatment until we move? Did I want to drive 4-5 days across country and stay in hotels during this pandemic? Did I want to be in a condo tower instead of my house? Did I have enough confidence in Dr. X's treatment of me? I pretty much decided to go to Florida.



I didn't sleep Wednesday night; I didn't sleep Thursday night. I got up Thursday just before the night slid into Friday morning and sat with Riley in the dark thinking. I'm HIGH RISK. I need to take care of me. I mentally listed the positives and negatives of both decisions. Finally, I wrote an email to my son.



...How are you doing? I can’t sleep because I’m a basket case over everything. I had decided I wanted to come to Florida to have treatment at Moffitt, but I am terrified to drive across country and then be there in this compromised. ... You were right. Staying in the house away from people while I’m going through chemo is probably better than being in the condo. We could probably do it, but I’m just too afraid to drive 4 days, stay in hotels and eat at restaurants. There are not as many COVID cases in Las Vegas, either.


So, you were right.  Don’t get a big head. I’m usually right.


My son has been worrying about my traveling now, so he was happy to read my email. He replied early Friday morning: People are stupid and not taking it seriously enough, which is most of my worry.  You can't trust anyone to do the right thing.  I love you.  I'll talk to you this weekend.

P.S.  I was right about not going to Italy too.  Ha!


I knew I would waffle all weekend, and I did. I abhor the lack of control I have over parts of my life right now. I resent having to make decisions that are going to slow my life down for months. I despise the burning pain under my arm from regenerating nerves. I hate that the aftermath of this monster disease is going to keep me from going to Italy this year. (There. I said it. I am selfish, I know. I know. I know. It is a pain for me, though.) I did make up my mind, though.



This morning, I was resolute. I made my appointments, and I start chemotherapy in Las Vegas on June 9. I even get to go to chemo school on June 8.


Best of all, though, is that the anger is gone, and I'm at peace with my decision.


Mike took me to look at wigs, but that's another story/adventure for another day.

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