Midnight Cancer Scare

October 16, 2019

Could this cough be a sign that cancer has gone to my lungs?

It's October again, meaning it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It doesn't seem as though I'm doing much to honor this month, except last week I got a CT scan of my chest to see if I had cancer in my lungs. If you've been following my story, you'll remember that in 2016, I developed an angiosarcoma on my right breast where I had been given radiation treatment four years before for my first cancer. This year, I asked my oncologist where the cancer would come back if it metastasized. She said it could return in my lungs, and if it did, "You'll develop a bad cough."

Well, last week, I had the cough. At midnight one night, I couldn't stop coughing; maybe the cancer was in my lungs, I worried.

"Take a deep breath; let it out. Take a breath and hold." I was in the CT scanner. (How many times had I been in the CT scanner?)

If this wasn't honoring breast cancer month, I didn't know what would be; in fact, I was a slave to breast cancer month, and to breast cancer.

Last year had been so different. At this time in 2018, I was preparing to give a speech about my cancer journey at Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The speech was entitled "It Takes a Village," and was a tribute to all of the people who had helped me get through this painful disease. I was also on the board of The Breast Cancer Innovation Foundation and we were preparing to host a benefit to raise money to fight cancer. Last year, it seemed as though cancer was far behind me, and I was out in the community to try to combat it and raise awareness about it.

This year, last week, it was yet again, another cancer scare.

What am I if I'm not proactive about checking to see if the hideous monster has returned?

The night I had my CT scan, I called my oncologist and woke her up. It was just after midnight. She told me to let the ER check me out. I swear, I could hear terror in her voice. That's the sign of a great cancer doctor.

There was no cancer.

I am aware of cancer every month. But for those folks who have never dealt with the disease personally, I think having a month dedicated to contemplating it is a good idea.

What am I doing when I'm not worrying about cancer? Raising my son, taking care of my husband, cooking, cleaning, working a job, seeing friends. Just like everyone else. But this added piece, this added worry, puts quite a strain on my life. And just when I think I can stop worrying about cancer, boom. Something happens like a bad cough to put me right back into the "slave" position. Yes, I am always "honoring" breast cancer awareness month.

"But it's all right; it's all right; we can't be forever blessed," sings Paul Simon in "American Tune." I guess that's how I think about my life. I can't be forever blessed. As long as I have a good doctor who truly cares about me and who answers my calls after midnight, I am blessed enough.


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