Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 10, 2009 - Walking the Beam

This past Wednesday, I had a routine appointment with Dr. Lerner. It went as so many appointments have gone before: a port flush and blood draw, then a consultation in one of the examining rooms. The good doctor looked through my chart, listened to my heartbeat and breathing and felt for enlarged lymph nodes in the usual places: on my neck, under my arms and in my groin.

There was nothing to write home about, as they say. No change. More watch and wait.

Dr. Lerner ordered another PET/CT Scan (my last one was in September). I’ll see him again in three months. Should the scan turn up anything unusual, he’ll call and ask me to come in sooner.

“How soon do you think it will be before the cancer’s big enough to treat?” I ask him, as he’s getting ready to leave.

“Impossible to say,” he replies. “This next scan could reveal something. Or, it could be years.” He gives me a little smile, before moving on to the next patient.

I’ve been looking through another of Dr. Wendy Harpham’s books, After Cancer: A Guide To Your New Life (Norton, 1994). I’m not sure if the “after cancer” label applies to me, but I’m surely “after treatment,” so I figure I may find something useful in those pages.

As it happens, I do. Wendy uses the metaphor of a gymnast walking the balance beam:

“Consider an analogy: Most of you could walk the length of a six-inch-wide beam placed on the floor. With the ground just inches away, you would focus on the beam and maintain your balance easily. If this same beam were raised five feet above the ground, most of you would weave and waver, flapping your arms as you tried to maintain your balance before falling off to the side. The beam would be exactly the same, yet the distraction of the ground five feet below would cause you to lose touch with the beam and lose your balance. Gymnasts learn to focus on the beam, not the ground. With practice, they rarely fall. When they do fall, they get right back on the beam. You, as a cancer survivor, must learn to focus on your present life, not on the uncertainties and unknowns of your future. It is a skill that can be learned and must be practiced.” (p. 214)

So, that’s what I’m doing, with all these doctor’s visits that reveal nothing worthy of note. I’m learning a skill.

Is my balance beam close to the ground, or high in the air? Impossible to say. Keep your eye on the beam, Carl. Keep your eye on the beam.

1 comment:

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