The Big Zap

Undoubtedly there will come a time, where a crossroad will have to be met…when a person will venture upon a not so well defined fork in the circumstantial road of his or her life and a choice will have to be made. For me, that time came nearly two weeks ago, March 25, 2009 when the decision “to do or not to do” became more than just an overly used catch-phrase borrowed from Shakespeare. “To Radiate or Not To Radiate” now that was the real question.

At the time of my last blog, I had received 3 varying opinions regarding my need for further treatment. The pathology reports as originally described by my surgeons were unclear as to whether or not there was evidence of any remaining cancer, thus my ability to sift through the medical jargon to gain a clear peace felt overwhelming and grim at best. However, during 2 additional consults with my original Oncologist and my Radiation Oncologist, both of whom had also discussed it with their colleagues…it was explained that there is evidence of what is called a “Perineural Invasion.” In other words, the cancer had passed into the nerve in my mouth. In addition, the cancer tissue was tested and compared to my normal tissue and deemed to be on the aggressive side. In the end, a total of 7 of the 10 physicians consulted all agreed that Radiation would be the best course of action.

This entire process has taught me one thing…life and the emotions that come with it are completely unpredictable, and you never can assume how you will respond until you’re directly in the situation. For me, making the final choice to undergo what I like to call “The Big Zap” brought with it a newfound energy and drive to beat this thing. Again, it goes back to my need to have a plan, a direction in which to go, a goal to accomplish, a dream to fulfill. Not that Radiation was ever a dream of mine, but I think you get the picture…I needed an answer, something tangible I could deal with rather than the anxiety of the unknown.

Since then, I have had several appointments to attend in order to prepare for the big day. Last week, I had a bitter sweet dance with a bout of Claustrophobia, which I’m happy to report, I conquered! I went to the doctors office under the pretense of a quick little CT Scan. Little did I know that the process entailed forming a damp mesh-net material into a solid mask of my neck and face. During their special art project where I was volunteered to be the model, I was tied from my wrists all the way to my feet so that my shoulders would stay in place against the table. They also placed sponges into my mouth to keep my jaw open as wide as possible. Once they snapped the mask into place around my head and shoulders, I went back and forth through the scanner for what seemed like an eternity but was in fact, only a couple of minutes! I quickly realized the only way to make it through the horrendous endeavor was to tap into some positive visualization. My thoughts turned to the last vacation I took with my sister to Myrtle Beach for my 30th birthday, almost a year prior. I imagined that the growing pressure on my face was due to spending a day at the spa and receiving a rejuvenating facial. When even that failed to dissuade the panic inside, I began to persuade my body to take deep breaths…I told myself that I could do anything for a few more minutes and I would reign superior over this minor task. You can probably imagine my relief when the technician removed the sponges from my mouth and began to unlock the mask. When he asked how I was doing, I promptly asked him if he had ever had the privilege of that experience. When he said no, I informed him that it should be a requirement for all techs performing the job much like a police officer is pepper sprayed before hitting the streets. He laughed and reported he had served 4 years in the military where he was forced to endure a small space filled with gas and had to recite his ABC’s before he could run out. I agreed to waive his additional training and we decided to call it even!

Last Wednesday, I met with a dentist to take impressions for fluoride trays which will help prevent cavities once my salivary glands become affected…Today, I went back to the dentist to pick up the trays and also had a consult with the G.I. Doctor to discuss implanting a feeding tube into my stomach through my abdomen as more than likely, by week 3 of Radiation, I will be unable to eat. On Friday, I will be sedated in order to have the feeding tube inserted into my stomach. On Monday, my parents and I will meet with a nurse to learn how to use the tube…on Tuesday, I will complete final testing and learn the formal treatment plan and on Wednesday, April 14, 2009, I will complete my first Zap.

My sister and her boys are visiting this week. In his true, uninhibited fashion, my 6-yr-old nephew asked me, “Aunt Kelli, were you scared?” I asked him, “Was I scared of what, buddy?” “Were you scared to get surgery?” I pondered for a moment and replied, “Of course I was a little scared, Moses. But you know what, so many people took care of me and made me feel special that I wasn’t so scared.” In his childhood innocence, Moses had little idea the impact his question had on me. His sweet remarks re-played over and over in my mind and it made me think…Was I really that scared? Am I scared now? What am I scared of and what have I done with that fear? Once again when facing the crossroad between fear and hope, we all have a choice. Do we give into the paralyzing feeling that can overcome even the strongest of individuals by shutting the rest of the world out or do we allow those around us to carry an amount of our burden? Most importantly, will we allow our fear to bring us to the one hope that overshadows even the most gnawing of fears? For me, I’ve chosen to place my trust in my faith…in my relationship with a God who knows my every thought, my every desire, my every need. I choose to trust the Lord who promises that He has a plan for me and it’s a plan to prosper me…no matter what my future may bring.

So for the next 6 weeks, during the 5-10 minutes each day that I am doing my absolute best to visualize my way out of the suffocating Radiation mask, I will choose to face that crossroad head on, with my heart open wide and with a confidence that someone else holds my fears and ultimately my peace!