Friday, 29 January 2010

How Many Shoes?

"Fiver?", said the rabbit. "Why's he called that?"
"Five in the litter, you know: he was the last..."
Rabbits can count up to four. Any number above four is hrair - "a lot", or "a thousand"

"Waiting for the other shoe to drop" seems to be the life of many cancer patients and their carers. Once diagnosed with the Big "C", there's always uncertainty about whether it will return; every lump, bump and pain becomes a possible recurrence. Since Christine's original brush with breast cancer in February 2005 we've been through this several times, and it never gets any easier. There are prods and pokes and scans of varying types; mostly (we've been fortunate) the tests are negative, once in a while they aren't. We recently had another shoe drop (Christine was diagnosed with a regional recurrence in lymph nodes in her neck a little over a year ago) but were confident that the treatment she had then would whack it for a few years.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Just about a year after finishing the last round of her (second) chemotherapy treatment she was getting headaches of increasing intensity. This, coupled by her fatigue, prompted her to go for a checkup. Her oncologist suggested an MRI, and so yesterday we hied off to Sacramento to have the poor lass stuck in a tube for an hour while various electromagnetic wossnames whirled and clanked around her. Tests over, the waiting began for the results, which came back in today.

Suffice to say, we've had another shoe drop, the third in just under five years. The MRI showed a small growth of uncertain nature in her brain, and because one of the places that breast cancer metastasizes is the brain, this has aroused enough suspicion that her oncologist recommended that she have gamma knife treatment and a third course of chemotherapy.

She called me today while I was out visiting friends. The conversation went along these lines:

Christine: So, do you want the good news first, or the bad news?
Me: Good news.
Christine: I got the kitchen cleaned up!
Me: Oh, well done you! And the bad news...? (As though I didn't know what it was going to be.)
Christine: I got a phone call, the results are in.
Me: And...?
Christine: They found something in the scan.
Me: Well, FART!
Christine: My response exactly.

The rest is predictable. I came home, shaking slightly. Now we have to tell Tessie, who at 11 years of age, has been through so much, with good grace, courage and resilience. But we'll all be scared. It's not just lumps and bumps now, and we have no idea how many more shoes there are to drop. Hopefully, it won't be hrair.