Monday, June 17, 2013

The Two-Year Adrenaline Rush

June 17th, again.  The anniversary of my diagnosis.  I felt little sentiment today, though that may be in part because I felt like hell all day due to a cold.  I went in to work and left a little over an hour later, after discovering that getting out of bed was probably the wrong choice.  As I type this my cold still lingers.  With a little luck I'll be able to sleep it off tonight.  If not, I can afford to sleep in tomorrow.

So I had my routine four-month MRI, and again it came back clean, or as clean as it's going to get.  It's almost certain those two little dots are scar tissue now.  Or possibly very, very lazy.

Both of my parents accompanied me on my appointment, an unnecessary gesture.  They always ask if I want them to come and I always express my honest indifference, but I think they interpret that as stoicism or bravery.  Of course my mother also gets irritated with me when I schedule appointments to fit my schedule rather than hers.  I suppose if I felt strongly enough about it I could just ask her - usually it's just her - not to come, but I worry that the ill will it may create would outweigh any minor benefit. 

They also wanted to come into the exam room with me, to talk to Dr. C.  We went over the usual, about how I'm recovering, and what I have done and can do in the future to help my body continue to heal and adapt.  I read a news article about a study examining the body mass of marijuana users to the general population and found that they generally tend to be thinner, so I asked Dr. C. about any potential weight control benefits to the drug.  He laughed for a good minute.  He's heard of no such thing and said he wouldn't recommend I start taking marijuana or THC, not because he's against it but because he feels I have no need for it.  Instead, he recommended more coffee, a prescription I am more than happy to fill.

I'd made a decision not to bring up my depression in front of my parents.  It had subsided slightly since my last post but was still a concern, and Mom had started to have her suspicions.  Perhaps that "light" in my eyes that so many people noticed has started to dim.  But when Dr. C. asked if I'd like my parents to leave the room so that we might speak privately, I declined.  In retrospect, I'm not certain why.  Maybe some of that suspected bravery.

Now, Dr. C. has been treating cancer patients for longer than I've been alive.  I don't know if I'm easy to read, or if he just has so much experience that he knows better, but he insisted they give us a few minutes.  Once they were gone, I spoke with him openly and without hesitation.  He did not seem surprised. 

Several times during our conversation he reminded me that he is not a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, but what he said to me made a great deal of sense. 

We've all heard the story.  Car accident, child pinned in wreck, mother gets burst of strength to lift car off child, etc.  Well, Dr. C. said that effect isn't limited to things so dramatic as a car accident, nor do the effects always wear off immediately.  What I've been through has been, well, traumatic, physically and mentally.  His theory is that I've been cruising on an adrenaline rush for the better part of two years.  It makes a lot of sense.  That would explain my focus and determination in fighting my disease, my quick and thorough recovery.  Counter-intuitively, it might also help to explain why I've felt so calm these last two years: if I'm already running in "high gear" then wouldn't it take more of a shock to amp me any higher? 

Only problem is I'm not sure if I believe it.  There are reasons we aren't always high on adrenaline; reasons that mother can't flip cars whenever she feels like it.  Our bodies are not made to handle that kind of stress.  They'd break.  Still, it's some food for thought.

He gave me the number of a local therapist that's covered by my insurance, and said (again reminding me that he is not a therapist himself) that I will likely benefit from a combination of medication and "insights."  That's a nice word for it.  I like it. 

I'm not too crazy (poor word choice) about taking pills again.  I haven't called this therapist yet, and I'm not certain when I will.  I have been feeling better lately, if not as good as I'd like.  I'm still on schedule at work, though my spotty update schedule on this very blog shows me that I'm still not as productive as I want to be.

So I guess that's about where I stand.  Keepin' on keepin' on. 

In other news, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies cannot patent naturally occurring human DNA, so that's pretty neat.  Sounds to me like a pretty good compromise between research for the benefit of human kind and protection of property, since altered DNA can still be patented.  Also means no one can sue me for copyright infringement for replicating my own DNA without a license, and I'm all in favor of healing as a basic human right. 


  1. I am so happy to hear your scan was clean.Raise a glass of coffee from me!!

    1. Me too! Don't worry, I've been drinking more than my fair share of coffee lately. Or rather exactly my fair share. No coffee thefts on my conscience.

  2. I have been smoking MJ for few weeks now, since my first cranniversary. I am very sceptic if it helps in any way (ie. phoenix tears type of thing) but it sure does help with a stress. About losing weight with cannabis I would strongly disagree as it gives me hell of an appetite.

    1. Cranniversary. I like that.

      Glad you've had luck with it!

  3. Firstly, I'm so happy to hear of your clean scan. I, too, have suffered from depression following completion of chemo. I've found that anti depressants make a world of difference, even though I'm on a tiny dose. I'm a therapist (non prescribing) specializing in trauma and your doc's metaphor really hit home for me personally. Psychologically, when we are going through a trauma, we are in a state of hyper vigilance- possibly the adrenaline rush he's talking about. Moving from victim to survivor can be challenging, especially because the trauma drastically changed the landscape of our lives. Most of the clients I work with have had single incident trauma, so I never really thought of myself as experiencing a 2 year long trauma. It was like I hit the finish line and just collapsed. Its also possible that the side effects of chemo were just masking my depression all along. I also find that the anniversaries are a tough time of the year for me too (I'm June 16 diagnosis, July 13 surgery), so it could be situational for you too. Last year, I was not feeling better by late August and so I sought further help. I encourage you to seek therapy- try it just once and you don't have to go back if you don't like it. Also, the best outcomes for depression treatment come from a combination of medication and talk therapy. feel free to contact me personally if you need more info:

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Laura. It's validating to hear that from a therapist (prescribing or otherwise). Hope you're doing well.

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  5. I am thinking of getting a second opinion for my husband. Can you tell me if it is Sloan Kettering Memorial that you go to? Would you recommend that center? We are in PA so NY would not be difficult to go to but don't want to go there if the neuro-oncologists aren't excellent to deal both medically and compassionately. Dr Friedman at Duke is very knowledgeable but he has a demeanor that turns patients off.

    1. Yes, Memorial Sloan Kettering is a great facility with some of the best minds (and hands) in the field. If you could toss me an e-mail I'll give you some specific names to look for. I know I complained about the hospital stay a lot - and I stand by that, it was awful - but a few days of discomfort is a small price to pay for the excellent treatments and results I received.

      I wish you and your husband luck, and if you want to chat or vent, don't hesitate to contact me.

  6. hello, how r you? how r you dealling with depression?
    hope everything is ok!