Six Month Checkup

This is our eighth installment of the Fear of Recurrence series, written by Liliana Holtzman:

Last Monday at 8 :00 am, I had my six month checkup with my oncologist. I usually schedule those appointments early in the morning, because I am nervous and like to get it over with early. I have trouble sleeping the night before. Most of the time I am busy with my life and give little thought to cancer. But exam days bring back memories of what my family and I went through five years ago, and those memories are still very painful.

I get up at 5:30 am that Monday morning, so I have time to get ready leisurely and be alone with my thoughts. I take a shower, eat some yogurt with fruit and drink a cup of coffee. I wake Sam up and make him breakfast. I do everything slowly and deliberately. I say goodbye to Jeff and Sam and drive to the hospital. It is a beautiful, warm spring day, fog clouds colliding with rays of sun. I don’t turn on the radio, I want nothing to distract my thoughts. I enjoy the moment and my own company.

I park the car at the far end of the parking lot, and unwillingly walk to the entrance of the hospital. When I finally enter through the wide doors, the smell of illness and disinfectant make me swoon with nausea. This always happens. Chemo has chiseled into my psyche this unthinking antipathy to the very essence of this place. I cannot explain to my senses that this is a healing place – my body is reacting with instinctive self protection.

The lab, the chemo room and the doctor’s offices are in close proximity. I enter the lab to have my blood taken. The new lab technician has not seem my veins before, and it takes her several tries to find the vein that works. But I am happy. I am done with the poking and the pain, and now I will go wait for my oncologist.

I have a few minutes, so I go to the chemo room to say hello to the nurses. Every time I come, I stop to see them – even after five years they recognize and greet me. They look busy, tired, harried. It’s not even eight in the morning and already the waiting room is full of patients. Older people, middle aged, and some surprisingly young. I feel a mixture of guilt and relief. I feel sorry for the teenage boy sitting in the recliner, his head leaned back as though his neck cannot support it, his eyes void. His mother is sitting next to him, holding his hand, reading aloud. I want to go and hug them both. But instead I exit the room.

I hold a magazine on my lap while waiting for my doctor, but I don’t read it. No one does. The waiting room is crowded but very quiet. Everyone is thinking about other things, other places. The nurse calls my name and I go in. She weighs me, takes my temperature, checks my blood pressure and pulse. Then I am left alone in the small exam room. It is the same room, the same flowery poster on the wall, that I spent countless hours in five yours ago. I try to meditate, but this place is hard to escape.

My doctor comes in and instantly tells me that all looks well. He knows how frightened and worried his patients are and he tries to bring reassurance instantly. He is a kind and compassionate man, and I notice that his hair has grown grayer and his face has aged. How hard it must be for him to spend so much time here! He asks me how I feel, about my children, about Jeff. He tells me about his two girls. Our children share the same piano teacher and we run into each other at piano recitals. All this time, he examines me, looking for anything suspicious. Innocent conversation, but his concentration is serous and deep. All the while, I look into his eyes, looking for anything suspicious.

He tells me that I look healthy, no sign of cancer. He tells me that I won’t need to come in six months, I can come in a year. A whole year! We look at each other and shake hands. As I walk out, I am sorry to leave him behind. I want to take my kind doctor, all the sweet nurses and tired patients with me into the sunny spring morning. But instead, I slowly walk to my car and turn on the radio. I am ready to return to this world.

How do you feel when it’s time for your checkup? We want to hear from all of you, either here on this blog or on our Facebook Page.

4 thoughts on “Six Month Checkup

  1. Hi there,

    If you follow the advice by Dr Jerry in this article I am sure all will be fine with someone who once had cancer or are having cancer (at your own choice of course) –

    My boyfriend who is having stage 2 larynx cancer has followed Dr Jerry’s advice and in the last 6 months his tumour has reduced size from 3cm to 0.5cm (without chemo, he has turn his personal doctor down to go for chemo). God bless him with a speedy recovery & a long life…I want to marry him!

    Change your diet right now!

    Here is an e-mail but this one is from John Hopkins:

    You may have read before but it’s good to be reminded and share with your loved ones again! AFTER YEARS OF TELLING PEOPLE CHEMOTHERAPY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TRY AND ELIMINATE CANCER, JOHNS HOPKINS IS FINALLY STARTING TO TELL YOU THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE WAY .. [Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins ] (Embedded image moved to file: pic11499.jpg) 1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size. 2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime. 3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors. (Embedded image moved to file: pic27774.jpg) 4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors. 5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system. 6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc. 7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs. 8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction. 9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications. 10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites. 11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply. WHAT CANCER CELLS FEED ON: a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal,Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt. (Embedded image moved to file: pic06379.jpg) b… Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved. c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer. d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells.� To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it. 12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.. (Embedded image moved to file: pic26141.jpg) 13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells. 14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells. 15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life. 16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells. (PLEASE FORWARD IT TO PEOPLE YOU CARE ABOUT) This is an article that should be sent to every one you care about.

  2. I just returned from a visit to the surgeon with my dad. He had a biopsy of a lump removed from his chest. Because of my diagnosis of BC, he was at higher risk for Male Breast Cancer. It turned out to be a lipoma. Still, my stomach hurt, my head ached, and I clinched my teeth all morning. My mind raced to places I didn’t want it to go. I was already making plans to bring a copy of the report to my oncologist. I guess it’s not just when I have to see the doctor. If anyone close to me does, I get a very real physical response. Is it post tramatic stress?

    • I think that post-traumatic stress is a big part of it. We know how much we suffered and we don’t want those we love to suffer like that. I am glad your dad had good news. Best of luck to you and your family.

  3. To the author of “Six Month Checkup”, thank you for sharing your piece I like thew way you write. I am on the computer looking for support this morning as I have my 6 month check-up with my oncologist today. I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non -Hodgkins lymphoma a little over four years ago . I know that I have PTSD. Anything can trigger a memory of my sickness and if that happens I can feel my mouth dry up with fear.

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