I left my job in outpatient (clinic-based) hematology and bone marrow transplant two months ago to start a new job with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I am thrilled to continue to work in hematology and bone marrow transplant...and equally happy to no longer have to commute (I now work from home), pay for parking, or watch people I have come to know, die.
It was really starting to weigh on me.
And while I didn't feel ready to be done working with cancer patients, I was ready to not know everything about the tough and heartbreaking parts at the end. I was also ready to change up the work scene. I was ready to be busy all day long again, not twiddling my thumbs, waiting for referrals, or begging to see patients...I never really got into a really good groove of consistent referrals for my services, despite having been at my job over five years and having "proven my worth" to my non-social work colleagues.
In my new job, I help staff a call center with brilliantly smart masters-prepared professionals; we take calls, respond to emails and answer online chats for anyone wanting information about blood cancers. I've already, in two months, learned more about the actual biology and treatment of blood cancers than I did in my last job over the course of more than five years.
A couple weeks after I started this new job, I thought I felt a "pop" in my right side and it started to hurt and ache a little every day. Nothing terrible, just annoying discomfort. Sometimes the discomfort spread to my right shoulder.
I mentioned it at my annual physical in March, and my doctor said if it didn't get better in a couple weeks to call her and she'd set up an ultrasound. She said she suspected it could be gallstones; they can cause the kind of discomfort I described.
On March 28, I had my ultrasound. I noticed the technician measuring some things. I never like to see something measured on what is supposed to be a smooth organ.
I finally had to bug the doctor to call me back; she did yesterday, April 5. She said it appears the hemangiomas, or so-called hemangiomas, anyway, that were identified about three years ago are still there...and one appears a little bit oddly heterogeneous and needs additional scanning by MRI.
She read me the ultrasound report. Nothing is more than 1.6 cm big, but it appears everything is bigger than it was a few years ago. And hemangiomas can grow, they think, due to the influence of estrogen. Many women between ages 30 and 50 have them (men do, too, but women have them more often) and just don't know they have them unless they are having a scan for something else and they are incidentally found. I had a scan for some lower left abdominal discomfort a few years ago, which basically yielded...constipation. Nice.
Anyway, they are concerned about one of these so-called hemangiomas. So of course I instantly research liver cancer. I don't have any of the symptoms of liver cancer. But also...liver cancer apparently often doesn't cause symptoms until it is late-stage, and then you have a 3% chance of 5 year survival. Even if you catch it early, your 5 year survival is expected to be 31% unless you can be cured by surgery only and then it's 50%. Not good odds!
I am definitely gripping and worried, but on the other hand, I also know that worry will not net me anything. So I am trying to enjoy every day right now. I took pictures on my walk this morning, highlighting some of the little things I enjoy; the feel of the sun, the greening of the Spring grass, the interesting shapes of urban-life-meets-nature:
And even this brush with the what-if makes me pay better attention to what my children are saying to me and what they are doing. I am thankful for the warming weather, the sprouts I see coming up in the garden and good food. I am ever thankful for a supremely supportive, grounded, responsible, loving spouse. I always thought I'd have 90+ years and sincerely still hope I do, but ... what if? How do people who have even better reasons to believe they have cancer or those who actually DO have cancer cope with all of this horrible "what if" stuff?
I have to wait until April 14 for my MRI and probably a week after that to learn the results...just in time for my mom's birthday. Wish me luck and pray for me if that is something you do. In the meantime, I will be embroiled in the activities of Spring Break (I'm working, but my son will be home), Holy Week and....drum roll....getting confirmed Catholic.
So maybe I'm turning more than one new leaf.