Playing the What If Game

My tumor is not behaving itself. For some reason it is not spreading as it is expected to. I should be much sicker that I am, my organs crawling with the dreaded cancer, keeping myself comfortable with the assistance of my primary care physician, following instructions I gave him such a short time ago.

As my recent CT and PET scan show cancer only in the primary site, I was sent to see a new oncologist at a cancer center about 100 miles from my home, he was intrigued by my case and has ordered another bronchoscopy. Not an enjoyable experience, a tube with a camera is put down your throat to see what the tumor looks like. A needle is placed into the tumor and selections are taken for pathology tests. Fortunately I was under anesthesia during this procedure. I am waiting for the tests to return.

It is so difficult not to play the what if game. Even my spouse who is constantly keeping me grounded admits that he is thinking what if. You see, the surgeon who took the samples spoke with my husband and told him she saw a lot of dead tissue. She does these procedures a lot, and we feel confident in her abilities.

What if? What if the tumor is really dead? What if I can go on with my life, return to work, spoil my grandchildren, count off the years with my husband. What if?

What if my tumor is at a manageable state? What if continuing with my present chemo pill will keep the tumor at bay and I can also continue on with living? I can enjoy my family, my friends and my hopelessly spoiled dogs. I would have a CT scan every three months, which I would approach with more confidence, knowing that the possibility of spreading is there, but that Adolph (I named my tumor Adolph) is locked away, it would be difficult for him to escape from his place in my chest. Strange as it sounds, but perhaps we can find a workable relationship, he stays where he is, doctors can use him for research finding that something can actually be done for small cell carcinoma.

And finally, what if this is just a bump in the road, that although the tumor is beat up, it is still alive and doing well, ready to jump aboard another organ in my body. Ready to make the journey into my brain, something I fear. What if the cancer does spread to my brain, what would it do there? I presently have memory issues, the chemo brain effect. I forget names, sometimes forget where I am headed; go by my destination and have to turn around. I approach this with humor, there is no other way to handle it, without humor I would probably drop into depression, a place that is difficult or impossible to climb out of. What if the cancer does things to my cognitive state? What if I forget more that just names, what if I forget who my loved ones are? What if I forget the alphabet? I enjoy being independent, but what if I forget how to use the bathroom or something equally important? I might be dependent upon another person to do the most simple tasks, ADL’s they call them, Activities of daily living. Eating, dressing, ambulating and many more things that a person does without thinking, things learned as a toddler.

What if the tumor becomes cancer of the liver, pancreas, or other vital organ? What choices would we have to make then? More chemotherapy? More radiation, all with drastic side effects.

What if’s can be as bad if not worse than worrying. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about what and why. It is natural to think like that but you need to stay focused on reality and go step by step.

I have an appointment with my oncologist in one week. One week. In reality that is not a significant amount of time, but when you are waiting for information that will impact your life in a big way, a week can seem like an eternity.

That is our next step, information and then decisions on where do we go from here.

Cindy McIntire

About Cindy McIntire

Cindy is a lifelong resident of Waldo County, she is a wife and mother of three adult children. She was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma in her left lung in January 2014. Statistically only 2% of the people who are diagnosed with this disease survive more than 5 years. After trying to find literature written by others in her situation, Cindy chose to write this blog, in hopes that it may serve as a rough trail map for those who may follow.