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Waiting. Again.

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They say that bad news is easier to deal with than uncertainty. I do believe it's true. Give me something to deal with and eventually I figure out how to cope with it. I still am figuring out how to cope with a diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer. That one may take me the rest of my life. In that way, I hope it takes me a long time to figure it out.

The evil of "waiting" is a popular topic among those with illnesses. We spend an awful lot of time waiting. We have copious amounts of time in waiting rooms, exam rooms, lab offices, hospital admissions, chemo rooms and on and on. Then there's the other kind of waiting: test results, scan results, waiting to see if treatment is working, time elapsed to see if abnormal test results are a fluke.

I'm in one of those waiting periods right now. My blood test this week showed an increase in tumor markers. This usually signifies that chemo is not working well anymore and the amount of cancer is increasing. However, as I've discussed many times before, this test is not precise. There is a reason it isn't a screening tool to see if someone has breast cancer. It's not a great test, but it's one of the only ones we have. I'm not going to mention particular numbers here because the variation among individuals is so great and interpretation of trends over time is important and I don't want anyone to be comparing their numbers to mine without a doctor's help.

The jump in number was more than what can just be dismissed as normal fluctuation. But one blip does not a chemo failure make. A few months ago I had a few rises over the course of six weeks before my oncologists decided this was picking up resistance to chemo even before my scans showed any change. We try to keep ahead of it. My choice to monitor often and closely is not the right choice for everyone. Not all doctors would even agree to such a schedule. Each person finds the balance of time and testing that works for them.

So for now I wait. We recheck, see what the data points are. One anomaly won't be reason for an immediate change in treatment with my team. I've been through this once before, watching slow rises and then needing to change chemo. I didn't think it would come again this soon. I'm hoping it hasn't.

I hope for the best, I prepare for the worst. That's all I can do.

But the waiting? The waiting is a nightmare. But I do always recognize that in that wait there is hope, because waiting is time.

If hoping and wishing could make things so I'd be cancer-free, or at least with chemo working for decades.

If wanting something could make it so...

Oh... there's a long list for me on that one.

This post originally appeared on Lisa's self-titled blog on July 19, 2013.

More Blog Posts by Lisa Bonchek Adams

author bio

Lisa Bonchek Adams received a diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 37. In October 2012, she learned that the breast cancer had metastasized to her bones and she had stage IV cancer. On her website, www.lisabadams.com, she writes practical essays about dealing with life-changing events and parenting a child with medical challenges. She has a graduate degree in sociology and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children. For more information about Lisa, visit her website or follow her on twitter at @AdamsLisa


Tags for this article:
Cancer   Evidence-Based Medicine   Make Good Treatment Decisions  


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