About two days before I was scheduled to meet my new oncologist, I had this crazy dream. I was in my kitchen and looking under the sink and I found this container. It was a clear plastic Rubbermaid container sealed with a lid. I opened it with no idea what was inside and out sprung this vibrant green alligator. It was the most amazing shade of kelly green. More significant was it’s sharp teeth and long curved claws. I dropped it and it skittered away down the hall toward my son’s room. I was terrified. There was an alligator in my house, not only that but there had been an alligator living under my sink for quite some time. How had I forgotten that I had left an alligator in a sealed container under my sink? I actually remember feeling guilty for a second. I mean, I am forgetful and all but it’s pretty cruel to leave a live little alligator in kitchenware for who knows how long with no food, water or air for that matter. And then I snapped out of it and ran down the hall to try and catch the alligator and put him back in the container. I had to keep it away from my sons. But of course, as in most dreams, the alligator had grown significantly in my moment of hesitation. It was growing by the moment and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get it sealed in tightly and back under the sink. No way. My son came out of his room and saw it. His eyes were huge and scared. The alligator smirked at me and I tried to stop it.
And then I woke up.
It doesn’t take a genius to decipher that dream.
It’s the cancer. The alligator is the cancer.
I try not to think about the alligator. I try not to be that person. The mom with cancer. It’s been easier since my hair grew back and the color came back to my cheeks. It’s been easier since I put it away and tried to live again. I’ve tried really hard to stop looking over my shoulder.
But things come up. I mentioned to my regular doctor at my yearly physical that I had been feeling really thirsty. Like REALLY thirsty. So she did a test and I am somewhat prediabetic. So she told me I should change my diet, even though I eat pretty well. She told me I should exercise. Ok. I can do that. But I did some searches and you know what can cause a person to become prediabetic? Chemo. Steroids. Antihormonal medication.
So my question is, did I become prediabetic because I am overweight from treatment or am I overweight because the chemo and whatnot made me prediabetic. I asked my doctor via email and she would not answer me. My doctor doesn’t really care. She told me to talk to a nutritionist and my oncologist. Ok?
But there is another component to all of this. See, researchers have found a link to prediabetes and cancer recurrence. Yep. In fact, here have also been several studies linking the diabetes drug, Metformin to preventing cancer recurrence. I asked my oncologist about it a couple years ago and she said, “Are you diabetic?”
And I said “No.”
And she said, “Then I am not putting you on Metformin.”
So now I am prediabetic , so the next time I see my oncologist, I come armed with three empirical articles about the use of Metformin in the prevention of breast cancer recurrence.
And she will not touch them. She will not take them out of my hands. She just tells me no. No. She will not prescribe it for me.
“But you said if I was diabetic, you would consider it.” I can hear the pleading in my own voice.
But still, I am stonewalled.
And that is when I started to get teary and frustrated and mad. And I told her. I told her that I felt like a sitting duck with this prediabetes diagnosis. That I was inviting the cancer to come and get me.
That’s when she got really stern. She told me that there is nothing I can do to keep the cancer from coming back. She tells me I did not cause my cancer and if I want to consider myself a sitting duck that is my problem.
Then she asks me if I have anyone I can talk to.
I look at her. “You mean like a psychologist? Why yes, I do. But I am not crazy. I do not spend my life thinking about cancer but hey, since you are supposed to be my cancer specialist, I thought this would be a good place to express my concern.”
Things went downhill from there.
I fired her.
I wish I could say I looked her in the eye and said, “You are so fired you mean, condescending, heartless witch.”
But that’s not what happened. I just looked at her. I looked at her and said nothing but in my head, that lady was FIRED.
And I went home and cried to my husband.
You know, I get it. She deals with people who are dying. They are bald and sick and dying and I look healthy and vibrant and (a little) chubby and happy and here I am demanding attention. Who do I think I am?
You know who I am? I am a 43 year old woman, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother of two who had 35 lymph nodes in her breast and armpit that were full of cancer three years ago and I cannot forget that. And darnit! I am going to try everything I can to live as long as I can.
I’ve got an alligator living under my sink that I am trying to starve and deprive of oxygen but it is still there no matter how far back I shove it in the corner. That is the truth.
I joined a weight loss class at my Y and I am working on the logical ways to fight prediabetes. I am doing the right thing…I mostly always do the right thing. But I still needed to find a replacement for the doctor I fired because people, if your doctor treats you like you are a big freakin’ pain in their ass, then it is time to find a new doctor.
And that brought me to the visit with the new oncologist, recommended to me by a friend who is also a patient advocate. The new oncologist is in the city but she sounds amazing and was worth the travel.
I just wanted someone who would listen to me. Hear me. See me. You know?
Someone who would understand that I am doing the best I can to live my life while still occasionally stopping to look over my shoulder. Someone who would help me keep the alligator under my sink…or even better, figure out how to set it free to never come back.
So I went to the city and I paid for parking and I sat in a new office and…
I think I found her.
More on that later.