Thankful for Hope: Anniversaries, Lines, and Grey Hairs

By Andi Last

I took this photo and wrote the following in May of 2019, on my 10 year anniversary of moving home to San Diego from Australia. As I wrote it, I was awaiting the results of yet another mammogram. I find that gathering feelings of hope and gratitude helps me manage scanxiety – and every day of living with LFS.

The results of the mammogram were benign.

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In the past ten years, I’ve developed countless lines around my eyes and grey in my hair. My gratitude for these signs of life and years lived is limitless.

Ten years ago today, I was 35 years old. With a new tattoo to mark my return home, I promised myself I’d do the things that set my heart on fire.
In those ten years, I’ve made dozens of special friendships and visited dozens beautiful corners of North America. I’ve taken thousands of photos, been to hundreds of life-giving musical performances, hosted 20 kickass house concerts, “performed” in 3 homemade music videos, and banged on my drums. These things set my heart on fire.

In those ten years, I’ve worked 3 different jobs, dozens of freelance gigs, and a few passion projects that fulfill me.

In those ten years, I’ve lived in 6 different places. I got divorced, fell hard in love, and got married in a spectacularly romantic wedding.

In those ten years, a man I’d loved lost his life. I am so grateful for all I learned from him.

In those ten years, I’ve had 6 terrifying diagnoses, 17 or so intravenous cancer treatments, 20+ blood tests, 5 surgeries, 5 mammograms, 4 breast MRIs, 4 full body MRIs and one CT scan. Today I await results from the latest mammogram and remind myself that every day is a gift. I am so thankful for the support of my mutant family at Living LFS.

I am grateful for these ten years, for the 35 years before, and for all the experiences in my life. I’m especially grateful for the people in my life. Thank you.

I continue to remind myself to do the things that set my heart on fire, understanding so much more clearly than I did 10 years ago how life can get in the way. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Happy anniversary, me.

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All that said, the grey hair is OUTTA THERE just as soon as possible!!


Scanxiety Rescue

Living LFS means extra scans. Preventative scans. Screening Scans. Treatment Scans. Follow-up scans. Annual Scans. Quarterly scans. This is after an undue amount of time fighting (sorry ADVOCATING) to GET scans ordered or covered in the first place. Holy Scans Batman. My scanxiety is tingling.

With great scans, comes great scanxiety. Rationally you tell yourself there is nothing you can do. You tell yourself what will be, will be. You know that whatever is or is not lurking in your body will or will not be revealed by the scan. But it’s not that easy. The what ifs stack up around you. What if there IS something? What if the scan shows cancer? What if it doesn’t show anything- how do I ever know for sure it’s ok? Have no fear, there will be more scans next year.

I think scanxiety is a true mark of intelligent people who have dealt with more than their fair share of medical crisis. We are rational. We know that every second spent worrying is a second taken away from living. As humans we also like to prepare ourselves- it is plain and simple self-preservation. We somehow think if we prepare ourselves it will be easier than being blind sided. Yet those who have experienced both will probably tell you- any way you slice it – finding cancer super sucks.

So you, I’m telling you to step away from google. Don’t even think about Web MD and here’s why.

You are going to search two or three terms that will undoubtably lead you to an article or a paper or someone’s experience with cancer.  Or something inappropriate, depending on which body part you are searching, but the resulting condition listed is generally cancer. The word cancer will make your heart skip a beat and then you will feel the pressure in your chest, a little tingly tightening in your head that turns into throbbing. You then will spend an inordinate amount of time researching that cancer and treatment and life expectancy and you will be terrified and decide to either throw the computer down the stairs or search for other possibilities it could be. You will spend a lot of time convincing yourself it could be diabetes or angina or some really rare disease that isn’t cancer but is relatively treatable.

In the time you’ve done this, your scan is sitting in the inbox of a qualified professional who has about 14 other scans to read before he gets to yours. All those people that were in the waiting room- all have something or other they needed looked at. He or she appreciates the stress people feel waiting for scans, there are classes and conferences and seminars on the subject now. His or her job is to read the scan and to read each one to the best of his ability. Sometimes he or she will consult with another professional to make sure. Now MRI, CT and PET scans can show lumps, bumps and shadows. The professionals are trained to look at it and try to identify features that are typical of benign lesions common in the area or malignant lesions. Most can recognize these features in a glance. Some cases are more straightforward than others. They can give recommendations, but they cannot tell the absolute difference between benign and malignant by scans alone. Only a biopsy of the lesion can give that information.

They will read the scan and then make a report. The report then will be entered online if you are lucky enough to have that access, or unlucky enough because when you have access at home you will sit down and read it and probably see words that invariably strike more fear in your heart. Then you immediately open up a tab for google and start the cycle over. So I say again. Step away from the internet. Go do something you like to do. Hug your kid, draw a picture, hike a trail, just sit and breathe. So then when you get the scan results, either way you can say- I’m glad I did that instead of worrying.