Friday, September 19, 2014

Outta dodge

I got some incredibly surprising news last night that brought me to the edge of undeserving.

Rewind to one week ago and I was marching into the breast imaging department at Vic Gen, feeling a bit cocky ahead of my ultrasound. My PET had revealed a suspicious area under my right arm and Dr. A has felt a thickening there all along.

I was cocky not because I thought it was nothing, but because I've gotten so good at self-talk that I had convinced myself, and everyone around me, that even if the ultrasound showed something and I had the area biopsied, that I was staying the course of my "watch & see" approach and would fight to keep that suspicious piece of shit so small it would never amount to anything in this life.

My nurse that day was lovely - motherly and funny and determined to make me feel comfortable in that room with a billion stories. I was immediately thrown back to 2010 when I had my first ultrasound and the tech kept going over and over the same area before calling a radiologist in to do a core biopsy and fine needle aspiration on the spot. I was all but shoved out of the room when it was over, with my shopping basket of clothes, reeling from the new experience.

When this one got going, it was relatively quick. Some back and forth, then a joke about taking an image of my implant, just to prove she felt me up in the right places. My nurse disappeared at this point to show the images to the Wizard of Radiologists, hidden in a back room somewhere, and I felt good.

As I lay on my left side, a rough towel thrown over me, the ultrasound jelly still on my skin and the nurse not back in the time I would expect her to be if it was really nothing, I started to fall apart.

I craned my neck around to study the images she had left on the screen, and sure enough, there was a long black oval, taunting me. Just when you thought you were out, McCart...

By the time the nurse came back in, I could tell she had someone with her and my tears fairly gushed out.

The fucking radiologist.

"We saw something, Mrs. McCart..." and then blah, blah, blah until I was crying quietly while she numbed my armpit, asked for a "spinal-sized needle" and proceeded to perform the very strange and fairly painful aspiration.

My nurse held tight to my hand the whole time and I held tight back. I didn't once look at the fucking radiologist. I didn't want to remember her stupid face or engage with her. She would not exist.

"We got a good sample, Mrs. McCart."

When it was over, the nurse hugged me, brought me a cup of tea and let me hang out on the bed until I calmed down. That made it all worse.

Six months of stress bit me hard in the ass all at once and my mind went right to dwelling on the asshole nature of metastatic cancer. The cells are different when they spread beyond the original site. They're more aggressive. They don't respond as easily to treatment. They'll screw your husband and steal your promotion, all with perfect hair and white teeth.

I knew that if the Taxol hadn't been able to eliminate this famous spot, then there wasn't much hope of eliminating it with anything else, and I knew I couldn't take more Taxol. There was just pure luck and me now, doing my best to keep it from growing.

"There are a lot of tears in this room," the nurse said. That was all I needed to hear to remind me I wasn't going to be like all those other bloody stories.

By the time I got home, I was zen again. I was determined to file this one away and do exactly what I've been doing, only more. I was hell-bent on not letting this become some depressing chapter in my fight. I got on with life.

Then last night around 7:30 pm, Dr. A called me at home and blew my mind.

"The biopsy was negative."

I think I made her say it a few times, and I asked a shit ton of questions about what else it could be (maybe an overactive lymph node, maybe fighting off an infection, maybe a shitty biopsy sample).

"I'd take it as very good news, Mrs. McCart."

Swoosh... Just like that, I'd won the lottery again. I get to start again. Like, really start again. And it kicks off with a trip to the home country...

Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I've loved travelling.

From anticipation to sorting through post-vacation photos, it's all 2-year old giddiness to me and this trip to Italy slapping us all across the face next Friday has dug itself even deeper into my psyche.

When I was rediagnosed, we had to cancel a big family vacation and I've been grappling with the fact that unlike J.Lo, my ass is no longer insurable. Cancel for any reason and I'm fucked.

And like any 2-year old who sees a cookie beyond her bowl of veggie mush, I could only think of the one thing I couldn't have for a very long time. No travel made me feel housebound, Islandbound, stuck. I hated it.

Then my work family, like any amazing family, decided to do something about that and gave me back the incredible gift of anticipation.

Over the past several months, beyond the scans and consults and chemo and endless needles, I've had this unreal joy of planning a trip. It was ridiculous, actually, to be looking ahead to a time of complete mystery to take my family far away. It's not what I'm inclined to do, but it grounded me in something completely outside of the shit of cancer and I'll never be able to tell you what that has meant to my motivation for getting the bad cells gone.

So we're making like my brilliant cancer cells and getting the fuck out of dodge.

A presto, i miei amici. Mi bere vino e mangiare formaggio in tutte le vostre onore!


  1. ah man, you had me sitting on the edge on my seat there..........phew......what EXCELLENT news! i'm so overjoyed for you my are SO deserving of this trip. you never cease to amaze me with your writing, your perseverance, you are an inspiration! have a WONDERFUL time with your beautiful family......relax, celebrate and enjoy to the fullest! XOXO

  2. Carissa, what awesome news to get right before your holiday!!! I hope you have a fantastic time and connect with your Italian roots!! What a wonderful opportunity for the girls to have the same experience you had when you were younger. Love the pics of you. Love, Maggi xx

  3. La mia bella figlia, tu sei coraggioso, forte e così incredibile. Questo blog è uno dei vostri più rivelatori. La ragazza che non piange, in realtà ha detto al mondo che lei è umana! Insieme a tutte le altre qualità, la vostra umanità è la più bella!

  4. This blog is an amazing journal by an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing, Carissa, and know that there are many, many folks who've been moved and inspired by your forceful writing and indomitable spirit. Be well, my friend, and give the Mr. a big hug for me, too.

  5. C&P - I have followed your journey from afar but kept you in my thoughts. We have been working for the better part of a year on a private mobile network for cancer warriors and I have the distinct pleasure of tagging you tonight:) Best, Lynda
    #Thrivetag you're it! #CancerWarrior Carissa iamferocitas you just got private access to the #will2thrive app now its your turn #GivingTuesday