My Other Part-Time Job: Living With Cancer's Complications


Cancer is a job I never applied for.

I teach three writing classes at two different schools, work as a freelance writer, maintain a household and take care of my 13-year-old son (and husband)/ But I also have another job: living with the complications of two prior bouts of cancer.

What is the current complication de jour?

I may have a tear in my breast implant that I received after a mastectomy in 2012. My plastic surgeon has ordered an MRI to see if the tear is there for sure.

So, I have to go to see doctors about this, which is time-consuming. Indeed, dealing with this cancer-related problem is just like having another part-time job.

For instance, I had to go to the hospital to have blood work in preparation for having the MRI with contrast. They had to check my kidneys to see if they could tolerate the MRI dye. Total duration of the blood work experience: two hours and 10 minutes.

Soon, I have to go to have the MRI procedure. On the day of the test, I have to be at the hospital at 8:45 in the morning. That will be another two-hour block of time. (At least.)

I wish I could get paid for all these doctors' visits and tests. Would anyone hire me as a professional cancer survivor with lots of residual problems?

And you can't show up at the medical appointments unkempt. You've got to shower, do your hair, apply make-up, dress nicely. I'm telling you, it's just like going to work. And just like a worker on the job, I am on time (10 minutes early, in fact), do what I'm told, listen to my "boss."

When will it end?

I'm hoping I don't have a tear in my implant because then I won't have to have it removed. If I do have a rip, that means another surgery. That would be three major surgeries in three years. And another surgery would mean more follow-up visits. More days on the "job."

I'll say it again. Going through cancer is like having another vocation. With no benefits.

On the day of the MRI, the procedure takes four hours. Why so long? Someone at the doctor's office scheduled it at the wrong facility. So, after we showed up at the wrong place, we had to drive downtown, park and hike into the main hospital. First came the paperwork, then the striping down and putting on a hospital gown, then the IV, then the actual MRI. They asked me if I wanted to listen to music while it was happening. I chose classical.

For this MRI, I was lying on my stomach, my breasts hanging down into a little space. The procedure wasn't fun, but I survived.

As you can see, of all my many jobs, cancer-related medical treatment is my least favorite. Tomorrow I go to school, where I'll teach how to write an exemplification essay and how to write a proposal. At least at this job, I get some gratification when my students understand what I'm trying to teach. And they pay me real money to do the work. Next school paycheck: Feb.15. I can hardly wait. Also, in February, I will be paid for teaching at the second school where I work.

The only reward of my current medical job will be knowing I don't have a tear in my implant and don't need to have it removed. Hard to put a price on such a reward.

Does cancer keep you moving like a second job? Is it your master, and you are its slave?

Take heart.

This medical experience makes great resume material.

P.S. I have just learned that I don't have a tear in my implant.

Thank God for large favors.

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