23 May 2007

That One Tiny Cell

"I'm back." It was only a couple of weeks ago that I had that epiphany. I might even be better than I once was in some respects. I seem to laugh more easily. I joke with people and poke fun at myself. It seems I'm more chatty, more friendly and less anal. Yet another medical marvel brought to me courtesy of the new medication I'm taking.

Underneath the new, better me is the Watcher. She hovers just under my consciousness, ever mindful of the fact that a mastectomy, six months of chemo and seven weeks of daily radiation do not in any way guarantee that all the errant cells have been killed. The Watcher is the mad woman in the attic. She's extremely irritable and the closer I get to my three-month blood test, the more easily frustrated the Watcher becomes. I can hear the annoyance in my voice as I talk to someone while I'm struggling to get the batteries out of my wireless tracball. Everything demands more from her than she has to spare.

The Watcher notes every unusual physical experience. What is that itchy spot on my upper left shoulder blade that I keep forgetting to show someone so I can get some reassurance? As if anyone could reassure me. Is that a new mole on my face? I have a new cough. That's particularly troubling to the Watcher. She knows where breast cancer will metastasize and, even though the rational mind remembers we're in the middle of allergy season, the Watcher knows she needs to keep track of how many times I cough every day. My radiation oncologist told me months ago that part of the carcinoma was very close to the chest wall. The Watcher remembers as if it were yesterday.

Friends, co-workers and family know nothing about The Watcher. As far as they're concerned, I'm fine. The minute radiation treatment ended, I was officially fine. My mom thinks I should have a positive outlook. I do. I just wish someone would figure out that worry doesn't end when radiation does. The fact that it doesn't makes me feel like a hypochondriac. I feel silly and embarrassed.

The Watcher knows it's not silly. Just under the level or ordinary consciousness, she reminds me about that one cell.

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