August Is My Trigger

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

 

Every year since 2013, August has been my trigger. There is no getting away from it. I’ve tried. I keep trying. Every week of this month has a day that I can’t escape from. Every one of those days plays back in my mind like a scene in a movie. A bad dream that I will never wake up from. The sounds, the smells, even the tone of the voices. It all comes back.

They say that one way to face your fears or anxiety is to talk about it. Verbalize it. Take the power away from it. That may work for some people but that hasn’t worked well for me. I’ve tried it. Every year.

Once in a while I try to bring up a memory early in the month: “Today’s the day I went to the Doctor, remember that?” The reaction is never consoling or understanding; its more like: “Why would you want to remember that?” or “Ugh I’d rather not” or worse…silence.

Believe me, nobody but me knows better what it was like living thru that month 5 yrs ago and every day since. Not that it’s all been shit, but what makes it all suck worse is when my trigger is made to be about someone else’s feelings. That just makes me want to throw things – at other people.

I have gotten better at having meltdowns alone -at night, in the dark, where it’s just me and my pup. I still do have those days, when the emotions from whatever memory that plays in my brain, creeps out. Those days I play the “I don’t feel good” card and keep to myself having as little interaction with anyone else as possible.

Then there are days like today. Today was my monthly check-up with my Oncologist and the dreaded Faslodex and Xgeva injections. Everything was fine – Until I pulled into the parking lot of the Cancer Center. My mind flashed back, just for a second, to my very first appointment. Before treatment even started. When I parked my car, I had to sit and wait until I was able to compose myself before I could go in. I couldn’t stop it. I tried. I was so pissed.

I get so angry at myself when it happens. I want to grab myself by the shoulders, shake myself and say:

“This is ridiculous. You should be on top of the world. You’re still alive after 5 yrs with this bitch. Stop it”

I wish it was that easy.

Simply put, August is 31 days of PTSD, Flash Backs, Panic Attacks, Anger, & Sadness, wrapped up in a blanket of Survivor Guilt. And it’s not over yet:

 

August 2013 Timeline

August 7 – Saw GP possible kidney infection

August 9 – No infection, Sent for CT

August 13 – Sent for MRI

August 16 – Told over phone “Cancer found in bones”

August 24 – DVT Blood Clot

August 28 – 7:30am PET/CT

August 28 – 5:30pm – The phone call that changed everything.

 

So, if you happen to see me on August 28th, the day I recognize as my 5 yr Cancerversary, no words are needed. Just raise a glass of whatever beverage you’re drinking that day and offer a toast to whatever additional time the universe feels I am worthy of.

Here’s hoping the universe continues to be extremely generous.

Looking Back

2 yrs ago on, August 19th, while taking my husband to the airport, I received a call from my GP that I wouldn’t truly understand.

I had been undergoing tests for most of the month for what I had thought was a kidney infection. The previous Thursday I had an MRI and was anxiously waiting the results. I was to have knee surgery on the 20th and wanted to know before I went in.

Dr Pitts was trying to be calm and reassuring. She explained the MRI showed a spinal lesion and rib lesions. She explained she needed to consult an Oncologist for what to do next as this was very unexpected findings.

As I was trying to comprehend that she just said Oncologist, she went on to say that I would need a biopsy. She said something about it could be confined to the bone or coming from another site.

I could feel the tears well up in my eyes as my brain was connecting the dots and realized she was talking about bone cancer. I couldn’t breathe.

She told me to have the surgery and that she would call in a few days with the next steps. Whatever that meant.

I honestly don’t even remember the conversation I had with my husband before he left the car. Nor do I remember driving home. I just knew I now had a huge secret that I couldn’t tell because I didn’t have any answers other than I had Cancer.

My Arthroscopic knee surgery went off without a hitch. It was so odd to me because I was in no pain whatsoever. I was even questioning if the pain meds had even worn off at all. There was no throbbing pain, no uncomfortable feelings in my knee or leg at all.  Looking back now, it would see that it was Karma’s way of apologizing for what I would be going thru these next 2 yrs.

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I remember on that Wednesday, while my parents were staying with me that I knew I would have to tell them. I was waiting for the Dr to call to tell me these ‘next steps’ and that it would be a difficult conversation to hide. I waited until after we had dinner. I remember telling my folks to sit down that I needed to tell them something. It was so awkward. I told them that the tests I had had so far had indicated that I had cancer but that they were unsure if I had bone cancer or another cancer.  I told them about the lesions in my bones and that I was waiting for the Dr to call me back.  Their reaction, to me, was off. I had expected them to both be upset. Instead they were a quiet calm and told me not to worry that the Dr’s would get to the bottom of it. WHAT?

August 22nd, my Dr called. Blood work needed to be done before 5pm and she confirmed me for a PET scan on the 28th. She explained that the PET would tell them if there was more cancer and if the spots I had originated from another part of my body. So, I had my Dad take me to do the blood work. I asked what labs they were running and was told in addition to the CBC and Metabolic Pannel, they were testing for CA 15.3. Turns out that tumor marker is mostly for uterine and ovarian cancer.

Friday, Hubs came home. By the afternoon I received notification that my medical chart had an update. I was so confused. Everything was within standard range.

Saturday, August 24th was an awful day. I woke up and my right leg was double in size. I could barely wiggle my toes. I called the Dr on call and was told to go straight to the ER. After a very long ultrasound on my legs I was told I did in fact have a DVT. I had a clot at the top of my calf of the knee that was operated on. I was put on blood thinners and the nurse taught me how to give myself injections in my stomach.

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I would learn later that the clot was not necessarily a result of the surgery but because I had cancer.

Two years ago this morning, I arrived for my PET scan at 7am. I went alone. I remember feeling like a lab rat. I was put in a room where they inserted the line where they would inject the radioactive glucose and later the contrast. I remember as I left the Imaging Center, that everything felt surreal. Did everyone know I had cancer? Could they tell by looking at me? Did I look different? Was I dying? How did I get here?

My phone was like a time bomb. At some point it was going to ring. I just didn’t know when. Finally, right at 5:30 pm, it rang.

My Dr was very calm. She explained that the PET showed I had cancer in my right breast. But what about the spine and ribs? She told me I’d probably have to have a biopsy to confirm that they were also breast cancer or it could be a different cancer. She wasn’t sure. She told me she would be making appointments for me with an Oncologist and a Breast Surgeon.

I was so confused. How could I have breast cancer in my bones? It would be a few days later before I truly understood the magnitude of what was happening and what it all meant.

Some people remember one specific date as their Cancerversary. The day they were diagnosed. I, on the other hand, have most of August as a remembrance. It starts with the day I went to my GP thinking I had a simple kidney infection and ends with the phone call of my PET scan results.

I have been very lucky so far. I’ve been NED since February 14th 2014. I hope my luck continues and that I can keep playing this game of life with house money.
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