Not only is Taylor Swift’s song “Bad Blood” one of my favorite car songs ever, it also lends itself perfectly to my personal rewrite. I mean, bad blood? That’s the story of my cancer. Here’s an excerpt: “Now I got problems, and only chemo can solve ’em.” It’s basically Shakespeare, folks. Now you’re probably thinking, did she really spend an afternoon listening to Taylor Swift on repeat so that she could write a version of the song that is about cancer? Yes, that’s exactly what I did. Because I can’t find a job. Also, Samwise (my budgie) loves listening to Taylor Swift. So really I did it for him.
The truth is that I am a little (VERY) scared about this. Based on what I’ve read, it seems like people have two reactions to the type of chemo I’m probably starting first. Either “You feel so rubbish from the cancer that the chemo actually helps and you feel better!” or “If you think you feel rubbish now, just wait.” I’m talking about chemo so much because I recently had the worst false alarm ever, and I’ve been pretty panicked about chemo, chemo, chemo for the last two weeks.
You see, two weeks ago I had my six month visit with my cancer doctor. I explained how sick I’ve been feeling. He told me that, based on my symptoms and my platelet level, it was time for me to start chemo. He told me to take a few tests to check for complications before starting, including a blood test and another ultrasound. He said to come back in two weeks after the test results were in to start chemo.
The blood test was to check for Acquired Von Willebrand’s disease, which is a complication of ET where platelets stop clotting. The ultrasound was to check my spleen for infarctions, another possible complication. I’ve been having some bad pain in my side off and on for the past few months, along with some unexplained bleeding.
I don’t have Von Willebrand’s, and the doctor said that if I have had any spleen infarctions, they were too small to show up on the ultrasound. I’m happy about that, obviously, but I have no explanation for the bleeding or the pain.
I went back Thursday, and my doctor completely changed his mind. YET AGAIN. He said that because the tests were negative, he doesn’t want to start chemo. I’m really frustrated at this point. This is at least the third time he’s said I’m going to start, then changed his mind at the next appointment. I asked what his new timeline was, and his response was: “See how it goes, keep an eye on your platelets.”
Honestly, I’m confused how we went from “Time to start chemo, it could really help your symptoms,” to “Let’s just wait and see,” in the space of two weeks. And I’m not comfortable with it. Here’s what else I’m not comfortable with: the conversation that inspired the following play, which is going to be produced on Broadway (not really).
Basic Anatomy; or, Why I Need a New Doctor
A tragedy in one act
Scene: Doctor’s office
Characters: Me, My Sister, The Doctor
Doctor: “How’s your belly?”
My brain: Belly? Am I three? What is he even talking about? Oh, that pain in my side.
Me: “Um…oh. Some pain, but not terrible.”
Doctor: “Okay, well, the ultrasound didn’t show any infarctions, so if you have had any they’re very minor. More likely you’re having stomach pains. Sometimes taking the aspirin for ET can cause irritation in your stomach. Just get this over the counter medicine to help relieve the pain.”
My brain: I think I know the difference between a stomachache and weird spleen/left side pain…
Doctor: “Actually, you see, the area between your chest and your pelvis is called your abdomen.”
My brain: What is he even talking about right now?
Doctor: “And there is another organ in your abdomen beside your spleen.”
My brain: There are several, actually…
Doctor: “It’s called your stomach.”
My brain: IS HE SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?
Doctor: “The stomach is where your food goes after you chew and swallow it.”
My brain: DON’T LAUGH, DON’T LAUGH.
Me: “Um. Yes?”
Doctor: “Sometimes you can get pain in your stomach and I think that’s what you have.”
My sister: Bursts out laughing uncontrollably
Me: Looks over at sister, joins in uncontrollable laughter
Doctor: “What? Did I say something funny?”
Side note: after leaving the cancer center, I went back to my sister’s house, where we obviously devoured copious amounts of ice cream. As I was spooning Vanilla-Heath goodness into my two-year-old niece’s mouth, my sister looks over and says, “Hey, where does that ice cream go when you swallow?” To which my two-year-old niece replied, “My tummy, Momma!” So apparently stomachs aren’t a new thing, medically speaking. I mean, even toddlers seem to know what they are.
So that’s my cancer doctor’s final word of advice: keep an eye on the cancer and take heartburn medication. I say final because this experience has encouraged me to find a new doctor.
I tend to feel like I’m imposing on my doctors, and I don’t like being a bother to them. Plus I get stressed out when I have to meet new people, doctors especially. But staying with my current cancer doctor is causing me more anxiety than doing the work to find a new doctor. I want a cancer doctor who is confident about treating me, who doesn’t repeatedly reference how weird it is that I have ET at my age, and who can come up with a treatment plan and stick to it. And I wouldn’t mind someone who assumes that I know what a stomach is. I’d actually take that as a compliment (though you have to wonder what patients my current doctor has had to make him think defining the stomach is a necessary part of his job).
That’s basically where I am right now. Not sure what’s going to happen, as usual. Still no job. Still no treatment plan. But hopefully changing doctors will reduce the number of close calls and false alarms, which will in turn save me some emotional stress. Please pray that I will find a good, reliable doctor.
As an afterthought, I would like to mention that Overthrow of Sauron Day was lovely, as usual. I got a bit tired of the Mount Doom cakes, so I tried making Bag End instead, which was a nice change, and then an awesome friend came over and watched all three extended editions with me and various rotating family members, which marathon basically consisted of me saying, “IT’S BETTER IN THE BOOK!” for 12 hours, not counting the time when I paused the movie to ramble on about the defeat of Morgoth, the fall of Númenor, and the origins of the Palantíri. You know, standard stuff. In closing I would just like to share with you with this question that has often plagued me: of the five romantic couples in The Lord of the Rings, why on earth did the movies focus so heavily on the least interesting one? These are the life-altering queries that keep me up at night. If you know the answer, please tell me. I need my sleep.