Friday, September 24, 2010

Power: A Single Cell

My birth number suggests power and abundance as two dominant traits in my life. Really? I have never felt especially powerful or abundant in the traditional sense, but lately, I’ve been examining these terms in non-traditional ways and discovered that I have quite a bit of both.

I have an abundance of friends. Truly I am so fortunate to continue to meet amazing people who support me so well when the going gets tough, in addition to celebrating the good times with me. I am blessed with good friends, near and far. I also have an abundance of freedom. I work from home for a non-profit that I founded, and can organize my days and months the way I see fit. I can go to a yoga class at 10 a.m. or the middle of the afternoon if I like or take a week off to visit my family. I can work when and how I like – from anywhere. There is a still a tremendous amount that needs to be done each day as the only employee of this organization, but I can do it when and how I like from a coffee shop or Timbuktu (not that I’ve been there).

Money has never been especially prominent or abundant in my life, but I am discovering that I have other types of abundance that make up for that in the form of friends who are willing to share their talents with me for free – guitar lessons, massages, coaching and healing sessions, time in their vacation homes. He is truly rich who has good friends.

Power has often seemed like an undesirable trait to me because so often those who have it abuse it for their own gain and to the detriment of others. To want to be powerful is thus seen as perhaps not an entirely wholesome thing for this reason. However, I have embraced my birth trait of power in the sense that I would like to have the power to help people, to inspire and to make a difference. I recently recognized that I am powerful in other ways as well when my subconscious intervened to bring to light some new cancerous nodules growing in my abdomen.

Since finishing treatment for ovarian cancer about four years ago, I have had regular follow ups with my oncologist which included CT scans and blood tests to watch for signs of recurrence. The visits had gone from every three months for the first two years to every six the last year and a half. When I saw him in February, my doctor decided we would stop doing CT scans since there had been no sign of trouble, and he was reluctant to continue exposing me to radiation unnecessarily (which has been proven to cause cancer).

My gynecologist is the one who originally diagnosed me after removing what we had thought was a benign cyst on my right ovary. We were all surprised when it turned out to be a rare form of ovarian cancer. She was comfortable with stopping the CT scans, but wanted to replace them with ultrasounds so that we could still get a look at anything that might pop up in there. I had my first one in April and got the all clear. The next one was scheduled for six months later – October.

This is where things get a little wacky. I had orders on my desk to schedule my six month follow up with my oncologist in August, and also for my October ultrasound, but when I went to schedule my doctor appointment, my brain told me that I needed to have the diagnostic test BEFORE that appointment, so I called the hospital and scheduled the US for early July. I have had enough mammograms, ultrasounds and all manner of diagnostic testing by now to know that I need to take the orders from my doctor with me when I show up at the hospital for the tests. They also remind you when they call to pre-register you a few days before.

Nonetheless, I showed up for my ultrasound on July 8th without the written orders. If I had taken them and the nurse who checked me in had asked for them, as she was supposed to do, she would have quickly seen that they said October and would have sent me packing. As it went down, it wasn’t until the technician was about to take me back that she said she couldn’t perform the test without my orders, and I realized I had forgotten them. Did I have time to go home and get them? Should I reschedule? “No,” she said. “You’re here now. I’ll just call your gynecologist’s office and have them fax them over.” They rewrote the orders for July and faxed them right over, and I got the test.

I knew immediately that something was wrong when the technician asked me to get dressed and hang around for a moment while she shared the tests with the radiologist to see if he needed anything else. They don’t do that when there is nothing to see – something was in there. This feeling was confirmed the following evening when I was sitting in the park reading and my gynecologist called to ask why I had gotten an ultrasound three months early (that was the first time I realized I had), and to tell me thank goodness I did because three small nodules were showing up that were cause for concern.

This call came after 5 p.m. on a Friday evening of my first weekend at home with no plans in months. I was looking forward to relaxing, reading, catching up with friends and taking it easy. My doctor told me NOT to sit around worrying about this all weekend, and I vowed not to, but it was tough. The initial shock of thinking the cancer might be back was tremendous. I immediately called a friend I had just spoken to and my voice broke as I left her a message about what was going on. Then I took some deep breaths, calmed down and went back to my book.

Luckily, the next afternoon, I had a meeting with my coach who reminded me that I could worry about this for the next month until I saw my oncologist, but it would only make me miserable. He was right, and from that moment, I literally put it out of my mind, and refused to let it weigh on me. For two months, between this test and my surgery, which confirmed the cancer was indeed back, I carried this knowledge with me and DID NOT let it impact my emotions. Now that is POWER! A friend recently bought me Michael J Fox’s latest book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future (which I highly recommend). In it, he offers this advice: “Never imagine the worst case scenario. It almost never comes true, and in the event that it does, you’ve lived through it TWICE.” We can’t control what happens to us in life, but we have 100% power over how we respond to it.

Next month: Here we go again. More about my treatment, challenges and triumphs this time around.

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