Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Doing Okay

I woke up today and decided to go to work. I decided that if those spots in my left lung are cancer, they've been there for awhile (weeks or months) and I've been feeling happy. I was ignorant of these spots, yes, but I was still hopeful for the future. So, the only thing that changed was the knowledge that they were there. Might as well just continue on as I have, enjoying my life to the fullest. I also got to thinking that it is certainly a reminder to slow down again.

I also got an email from Anna (at NSF) and one of the things in the email had to do with the lack of participation of indigenous people and women during presentation for the International Polar Year. Sooo, it reminded me that there is still a lot of work yet to be done in terms of including indigenous peoples and women in scientific undertakings. It reminded me that I'm first and foremost an anthropologist, too. Not a cancer patient. Perhaps an anthropologist who happens to have cancer. But it still reminded me of who I am and the reasons why I do the work I do. Got that fighting spirit back.

So, other than shedding a few tears with my office staff at this latest news (they're both struggling with budget woes here in Oregon - lots of staff layoffs on the horizon), I managed to have a more or less normal day. Teaching in my first class was fun - my students seem to be interested and engaged and I always feed off their energy. Again, it served to remind me why I'm here. My second class went well, too.

I had a late meeting (complicated by my walking the wrong way across campus to get to where my car was parked), but when I came home, I was able to visit with Scott (he and Rick and Chris, Rick's son-in-law) tore down this horrible old fence that was falling down in my yard. Scott has thankfully taken over managing the building of a new fence - that whole side of the yard will look much much better when all is said and done. I also spent time with Eddie. Scott and I enjoyed teasing Eddie, then I helped him with his homework, and then we played on his Big Wheel - spinning to get higher scores. That was fun, too. Then, it was American Idol. My favorites are Allison and Anoop and Adam and Danny.

So, tonight, as I was responding to another blogger on her blog about my latest news, the question came up about how is it I have lung spots when my tumor markers are well within normal range. I thought I'd heard that tuberculosis rates were up either in Alaska or in the Lower 48, and since in recent years, I've struggled each winter and even last summer with a persistent cough - I catch a cold and my cough hangs on and on for weeks - I got to wondering if it was tuberculosis. It does show up on a CT scan. Might I have it? I think my mom may have had it at some point and I will call her tomorrow and ask. I was just in Alaska in October.

I then googled "tuberculosis ct scan" and found a discussion group where the people also talked about having these spots on the CT scan, only to have their biopsies come up negative for cancer. These spots can be caused by simple inflammation or infection. My question is what is the relationship between this intermittent persistent cough that I get (this past winter mid-to-late Jan and for about a week or so after my surgery), for about 8 weeks last summer, last winter for several weeks, the winter before that for several weeks, etc.

So, I'm not entirely convinced it is cancer. Low tumor markers sorta argue against it. Having some kind of chronic, intermittent cough might be related to period inflammation that clears up and comes back.

I'm still going to do the prudent thing - take Tykerb again - and will also begin taking a Chinese herbal mix (Paris 7) that helps with lung health, in general. My acupuncturist says that it'll help with lung infections, inflammation, and cancer, so it can't really go wrong and there aren't really any side effects. She reminded me of a qigong move (a breathing exercise) that emphasizes lung health. And, get good rest.

So, I got a plan. My plan includes not seeing anything on a CT scan in three months. Thank you, jmoore4you, for telling me that your spots cleared up. That's what mine are going to do, too.

Good night everyone. Sweet dreams.


Liz Kreger said...

Yes. Cancer does not make the person, Dee. You are indeed an anthropologist who happens to have cancer. I do have to admit, though, that cancer can bring out the best in people. I try to see a silver lining in every situation and personally speaking, I think having this disease has made me a better person. Or so I like to think.

Sounds like you had a productive day. It is an interesting thought that those spots could be tuberculosis. That’s easily treated, isn’t it? I guess I don’t know all that much about this disease. Let us know when you get it checked out. One would think there are tests that would show exactly what those spots are.

jmoore4you said...

I am so happy that you are putting these spots into the proper perspective. I bet they have something to do with your travels. I think we want all the answers and the truth is that we just need to live our lives and the rest will just all work out.

Joanna Moore

Dee said...

Hi Liz,
Yes, having cancer has made me a better person, too. Happier, more patient, etc. Wish I could've learned those lessons without ever having had cancer though, you know!

Joanna, thank you for the comment about putting the spots into perspective. And, yes, it might have something to do with traveling. I'm thinking of having a TB test done, just to be sure. And, I may just have some kind of infection.

Take care of you.

MisAnthropology said...

For that matter, you may have been exposed to TB years and years ago, and your body built up cell defenses that kept you from actually contracting the disease. When the immune system is compromised, those defenses can break down.

I have the potential for a similar scenario, having been exposed to TB in Mexico when I was a wee tot. It's worth exploring.