You know the joke about making your second million in business first, because it’s so much easier than your first? Well so it goes with opinions, next time I’m going to get my second opinion first, because that was way better. And why don't they call it a first opinion?
Maybe starting with the bad shit is a psychological strategy. Because it can only be uphill from here.
Only uphill from here. Have I mentioned my frustration with the uphill/downhill metaphors? They are total contradictions. Uphill and downhill both mean hard and easy at the same time. It’s all downhill from here: that’s bad, right? Life’s crap, things are going south. But you can sail downhill, effortlessly. And plenty of people like going south. It’s warmer. Hot sandy beaches and colourful drinks with paper umbrellas and pineapple garnishes. Uphill is work, it’s gruelling. But isn’t up the desired life direction? I'm moving up in the world. Higher = bigger, better, more. Aren’t we taught that up is the only worthwhile pursuit? Personally, I’ve always been good with across.
Maybe the second opinion felt so much better because of the delivery. As with a joke, it's all - or almost all - in the delivery. When the doctor sits instead of standing a few inches away peering down until you finally ask them to please sit because they’re making you uncomfortable... and when the doctor looks you in the eye instead of staring at the tumour site just south of your eye, and smiles and asks if you have any questions: it's almost that easy to get to nice.
I went to see a radiation oncologist not far from my house at Princess Margaret Hospital for a second opinion, and because if I need radiation, I’d like to walk there in 12 minutes, rather than spend 1 ½ hrs driving to Sunnybrook Hospital and back, and pay $24 to park. (I do understand there’s a parking deal for the daily visitor. Yay for that. But still.)
I didn’t expect to be told something fundamentally different from the first radiation oncologist. I did hope to replace the word unlikely with likely where hair regrowth and vaginal functionality were concerned. Although, as noted above, Dr. Doom and Gloom’s psychological let's-go-with-the-bad-news strategy, is a good one because things couldn’t possibly get any worse than bottom of the barrel shit. I have a friend who was radiated for a brain tumour and told her hair would grow back for sure. It’s been a couple of years and that’s barely happening. She felt duped.
But Dr. H did tell me something different. They’ll be ordering up a PET scan and if anything lights up (what you’re looking for here is NOT the Christmas tree effect; malignancy glows) then the chemo wasn’t as effective as hoped and we go ahead with radiation. But if it doesn’t light up, I can consider getting no radiation for now. On the less lovely side, Dr. H added, if radiation is required it should happen as soon as I get back from Croatia in early August. No waiting until September. I don’t really get why, but I guess the protocol is chemo/radiation, not chemo/Croatia/hang at the cottage/drink martinis on patios/radiation. There must be some logic at work there.
And the hair? Likely to grow back. The vagina? Well, the Doc said most women (unlike me who will discuss mine on Huffpo) do not open it up for group discussion, particularly with a male doctor. So he doesn’t have a good sense of that. But he can refer me to an RN who can help and provide useful gadgets and products. Whatever those may be.
I left feeling optimistic. And scared. Again. It’s against my nature to haul my head out of the sand. Go ahead and radiate for good measure – that’s cozy warm sand. I’m oddly comforted being down there.
Another scan. Another wait. Another potentially depressing outcome. (Intake of breath). OK, bring it on. Kind of proud of myself for pulling my head out and looking around – as hard as that feels.
So the 2nd opinion was nicer. Easier. More complex. With real choices. Things will be clearer and murkier at the same time. Regardless of the PET scan outcome I could still go with radiation.
As it turns out, the mixed uphill/downhill metaphor is perfectly apt for everything I’m going through. It's all uphill and downhill from here. By the way, did I mention 25 blog posts ago: I fucking hate rides.