The Construction Crane

© Mary Beth Williams.
Used with permission.

With a Nor’easter brewing off the Atlantic coast this morning, I headed off to my second PET/CT scan in as many months.  I was supposed to do this last week, but Hurricane Sandy made landfall and a 90 mph wind gust pushed the arm of a construction crane back over itself and there it hung like the sword of Damocles over 57th Street and 6th Avenue.  The neighborhood was evacuated and many lives were disrupted.  Businesses were closed, power was off, streets were blocked.  It was a mess.

Minding its own business in the elements and then – BAM! – it’s a hunk of twisted junk that no one quite knows what to do with.  It goes without saying that I can relate to the crane.  Since July I’ve felt a bit like I have been just dangling from a high wire and wondering how or if I will get down, untangled, or somehow mended.

The TFK is working: the Death Star is much smaller, so much so that the boob is actually looking more normal these days.  But the stickler has been the lower back pain I’ve experienced in earnest since mid September.  It reached a near crescendo two weeks ago when I was, frankly, debilitated and leaning on my Swiffer–until I got a cane.  And I’ve been walking with a cane since.  The PET/CT was performed to see if the disease has progressed, notwithstanding the improvement in the Death Star.  Or, if it is the same, if the lesion is pushing on a disc or nerve–which I kind of suspect.

The good news is that despite the consistent low grade pain that is in my lumbar/sacral area, the debilitating hip pain seems to have resolved itself.  And I hardly needed the cane today–but took it with me just in case.  And whenever something like this happens I immediately say to myself, “Oh, see?  It’s gone.  I can forget about it now and move on.”  But this is a little different, isn’t it?  I can’t wrap myself in denials this time.  I have to remain vigilant.  It’s not my strong suit.

I’m more than a little nervous about feeling better.  That’s just crazy, when you think about it.  Nervous about feeling better?  Truth be told, I felt fine the last year and not only had the Death Star established its boob orbit, but it sent out tie fighters to establish cancer colonies elsewhere in my body.  I felt fine.  Then out of nowhere I was essentially debilitated for three weeks–and quite suddenly I began to feel better.  How can that not be suspect?  Was I just imagining all of that?

I’ve actually had to stop reading the discussion boards because I don’t know what to trust anymore.  I can’t really relate to folks who are having mastectomies and going through the hell of chemotherapy and all of the associated side effects.  I always accepted that I would need a lumpectomy at some point, but if TFK works I may never have to sacrifice any breast tissue to surgery. On the Stage IV boards I’m confronted by women who have been living with breast cancer and NED for years and it confuses me: do you die of this shit, or what?  If long term survival is so bloody rare, then why do I see so many women surviving for so long?  What’s going to happen to me?  How do you plan for this stuff?

You can see why I can identify with the crane.  Despite all of the activity around me, I’m just kind of stuck there until forces out of my control say differently.

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13 Responses to The Construction Crane

  1. Sara P says:

    I would like to have back every minute of my life (over the last year) that I spent reading about worst-case and best-case scenarios.. I got to that point, too, where reading the boards just made me more confused and more sleepless (less sleepful?) and more stressed out. Even today I was googling whether my onc was right in not giving me an oncotype DX because my tumor was “borderline” in size, and stressing over whether my surgical margins were big enough, while have a mind-blowing hot flash. It’s fucking all consuming even with a good prognosis.

    And yet…the sense of community and not being alone…that you’re getting from blogging and I’m getting from sitting here boring you out of our mind with my shit, is important.


  2. MBS says:

    Hi Scorchy, at the risk of sounding like a goof, I’m glad you’re getting a reprieve from the pain and a good response to tamoxifen. I find myself posting less on forums lately too. Seems all I can say is “I’m glad X happened” or “I’m sorry Y happened”. I don’t have much to complain about right now and it seems wrong to say “hey everyone I’m feeling great. Cancer isn’t seeming so bad right now.”

    I do find it confusing that for initial stage IV sometimes you just get tamoxifen, whereas for node positive II or III, you get surgery, chemo, radiation, plus tamoxifen and still have a good probability of ending up Stage IV eventually anyway.

    • Scorchy says:

      The discussion boards are a good source of inspiration and on one that I follow, if I don’t post people will contact me to see if I’m okay. So I try to say, “Have a nice day” occasionally and try to be a source of virtual support. As for the TFK, it’s working great on the Death Star and I’m hopeful the outliers are following suit. You just look at this stuff and think, “How will I know when it’s not working anymore?” “Will there be a sign if it shows up someplace else?” “Will it go to my brain?” That shit scares me crazy! But no use projecting, it is what it is. I have to figure out a way to navigate uncertainty. Even now feeling better has a new definition–it means I don’t need narcotics.

  3. Lee Asbell says:

    As a fourteen year BC survivor I can tell you that no matter where you are at with this crap, it never leaves your mind for very long. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether you need the cane or not.

  4. Good news about the shrinkage (you never get to say that to men do you?). I hope you continue to feel better and get encouraging news from the PET/CT scans.

    I’m still reading the blogs but I don’t comment much anymore. I feel guilty that I’m past treatment (hopefully forever) and scared that it’s just a matter of time before I’m right back in it. Uncertainty sucks.

    • Scorchy says:

      Yes, I find myself reading, but not commenting. You can only wish folks well for so long without sounding like a goof. I was always frustrated when I’d go to the Stage IV boards and hardly see anything. Now I understand why. The uncertainty really does blow. And it’s also difficult to read things like “behind me,” “last treatment,” or seeing people just leave because they don’t need the acute support anymore. Of course I hope no one ever comes back, but too many will have to.

  5. Katie says:

    Unless you’ve got tennis balls on the feet, I don’t think the cane counts as really being a cane. I would think it’s kind of strange reading those message boards, seeing as you can’t help but really only see the survivors. The others, well, their opinion can’t exactly be heard anymore.

  6. Great analogy! As a fellow stage 4 BC’er I totally relate. And agree that yes, it’s impossible to know what to expect from this disease. Some people die quick, some live NED for years & years… Some have lotsa pain, others don’t. It’s such an individual journey. Full of unknowns. And that fuckin’ sucks. Personally, I’m living like I’m gonna beat this (yet I’ve also taken the time to get my will and papers in order – ’cause that seems like the right thing to do). Only time will tell.

    Keep fighting lady! Don’t give up. It can feel like a very lonely journey but having this blogging community helps tremendously. We’re in this together! – Terri

    • Scorchy says:

      Blogging is life saving–and it’s not hyperbole. I honestly felt so isolated and then–BAM!–there you were with the same frustration and experience. Thank you for connecting! And move forward I shall. I’m adopting the President’s slogan for myself: FORWARD.

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