Beyond the Byline: Waiting is the hardest part

By Melanie Mizenko - [email protected] | October 3rd, 2016 4:15 pm

I think it was Tom Petty who sang, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”

He was never so right.

One of the hardest parts of having cancer, I’ve found, is the waiting.

The newest treatment I’m on requires me to have chemo once every three weeks (yes, it’s that powerful). But I haven’t had a CT scan in months. I don’t have another one for another six weeks.

After my last treatment, my mom, Susan, was talking to her sister on the phone and told my aunt that my doctor “thinks the chemo is working.” My aunt Roberta, a nurse, nearly shrieked back into the phone, “What do you mean the doctor thinks? She doesn’t know?”

No, unfortunately, the doctor doesn’t know. The doctor won’t know and she can only go by what I tell her during the exam. Until a scan is done, there is no definitive answer. And CT scans, PET scans, anyscans are only done once every few weeks or months.

I remember how difficult it was to wait seven weeks for chemotherapy to begin last year.

I had a hysterectomy in January and the chemo was just going to be proactive. But I still had to wait seven weeks to heal before undergoing chemo. It was, perhaps, more difficult for me because every time I had five minutes to myself, I couldn’t help but think the worst.

Heck, it was difficult to wait the four weeks to have the surgery after diagnosis.

On most days, I feel like people expect answers yesterday — and I hate not having answers for family, friends and colleagues. It’s human nature to want to be able to fix something.

I think it has to do with the smartphone era; we input our symptoms into WebMD and diagnose ourselves. We text a significant other and, if they don’t get back to us ASAP, we’re immediately thinking the worst.

There are days I feel like I should carry flash cards.

Side one: Doing OK, thanks for asking. I feel decent. Every day that I wake up is a good day.

Side two: Nothing has changed. Docs and I are hopeful.

As a cancer patient, it’s flattering to know people care and want answers just as much as I do. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. But I always feel like I’m repeating myself. The same questions are asked by dozens of people every day. It gets repetitive. I’m not blaming anyone because everyone cares.

Parents think waiting for their child to get off the bus on the first day of school or a 20-year-old on the eve of his or her 21st birthday is a lifetime. Seriously, waiting for a CT scan to see how you’re progressing, THAT’S waiting a lifetime.

There is waiting to be told you have the disease, waiting to start treatment, and then waiting to determine whether the medication has done its job.

When you’re finished, it’s waiting and hoping the cancer hasn’t returned.

My routine during last winter (when I was in remission) was a CT scan every three months for the first year; then once every six months until five years clean, then once a year for life. I barely made it six months before we began chemo again.

Honestly, I dislike having to wait for answers, not only in chemo, but in life.

I try to live by the saying: Don’t sweat the small stuff.


By Melanie Mizenko

[email protected]

Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko