Most sequels are awful. To support my claim, I offer up Speed 2: Cruise Control, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Weekend at Bernie’s II. However, I could point to Mad Max 2, Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day as evidence that sometimes sequels can be better than the original.

On November 16th it will be two years since I went into surgery to have my bastardly cancer removed. To be precise, I have two cancerversaries. September 17th, 2015 was when I was told I had cancer, and that is what I wrote about last year.  You can click here to read it.

I simply can’t make up my mind as to what is the more appropriate anniversary to mark. Should it be when I discovered the bastard, or when I had him thrown out? There are more than two months between those two dates, and they were the longest and most stress filled 61 days of my life, if you don’t count any part of my childhood. I guess I could observe them both based on how I celebrate my birthday, which is now a month long affair. This can be blamed on my North Carolina friend, Carol. She pointed out the many upsides to it when I questioned her as to why we were still going out and toasting her birthday fifteen days after the fact. Southern people just KNOW how to celebrate things.

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When someone calls me out for celebrating my birthday the whole month….

I just completed all the annual tests and procedures that are in place when you get diagnosed with my type and stage of cancer. The last thing on the list was a CT scan, which I got done on the morning of November 9th at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington. This was my third CT scan, so of course I feel like an expert. My sister Sarah drove me as, historically, the 16 ounces of contrast I am required to drink the night prior, and again the next morning, makes me nauseous. Just when I start to feel a bit better, as I arrive at the CT wait room, I’m given another cup of contrast, and then they hook me up to an IV so I can be injected with even more contrast in the form of a dye. Oh, and I’m not allowed to eat or drink (other than the contrast) for four hours before the test. So not only am I feeling barfy, I’m a bit hangry as well. It’s a very outre combination, and it doesn’t mix well with driving.

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Actual rendering of how I feel with contrast dye coursing through my veins…..

Props to Sarah for driving me, even with the risk of me being sick in the car. She did look ridiculous in the plastic sheeting she had formed into an outfit, though, and it was hard to talk to her with the barf shield she had installed between us. Unconditional sisterly love.

'Please, don't take this personally.'

My appointment was at 9:45 am, and a CT miracle occurred. They were running on time! As we were fifteen minutes early, I decided it was safe to step away from the waiting room for two reasons. One: I had to pee…blame it on the 16 ounces of contrast laced apple juice…and two: I had forgotten to tell the imaging receptionist to ensure that my endocrinologist got a copy of the report. The peeing was quick, the reception visit not so much. I ended up with a Chatty Cathy. My sister texted me that they were asking for me, so I literally walked away from her as she was relaying, for the third time, what to do if my endo actually wanted the images. I walked away backwards so she could see my mouth form the words…yep, got it, yep, got it, yep, got it. I’m not completely without manners.

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When I arrived back in the waiting room, Sarah told me that the nurse who had asked for me had gone back into the room directly behind me. Mortified that I was making her wait, I stuck my head into the room and saw that it was THE room. The control room where the technicians monitor you. There were computers and chairs and a few people milling about. One woman was attempting to eat some sort of hand held breakfast. As I poked my head in and announced that I was the Gail that had just been called, that very woman put her sandwich down and approached me. I told her to PLEASE finish her food, but she brushed my suggestion off…even after I told her that I was sure that she was probably not given enough time to get something to eat, based on how overworked, underpaid, and busy they are. It was my way of ingratiating myself to her, and being passive aggressive about the Ontario Health Care System. I think it might have worked because she smiled at me as she led me to a chair to be poked with a needle and invited to drink more contrast. Either that or she was looking forward to sticking me with a needle as revenge for not being in the waiting room when I was called.

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Christine’s smile was much less toothy…and hardly at all menacing…

After a few moments of small talk, which included me telling her that she would love my veins, and her asking me if I was being sarcastic or truthful (the answer is truthful…nurses love my popping and easily visible veins) she told me that I looked familiar. I said the same thing to her and we realized she had been my hostess and vein excavator last year. With that ice broken, and her visible cheerfulness that indeed my veins were a nurses dream, we chatted a bit. I got permission to mention her name in this post. Turns out Christine is training for a Half Ironman. I absolutely adore it when a health professional is actually pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Not all do, trust. On top of that Christine complimented me on my hair. I’m pretty sure she was lying, but she seemed sincere..actually accusing me of being one of THOSE women who just roll out of bed and have perfect hair. At this point it was difficult to not fall in love with her.

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To be fair, my hair was cooperating that day. It always does when there is no social outing on the schedule. My hair tends to look great when I have to go to the grocery store, get a mammogram and, apparently, a CT scan. When I have a party or event, I can count on my hair to act like a resentful and misbehaving child. Completely unruly. I half heartedly argued with her, but did admit to rolling out of bed, pulling a brush through my hair, and at least putting some makeup on so I wouldn’t alarm anyone. I proceeded to give her some suggestions on how this whole CT experience could be elevated by allowing the contrast to be mixed with a fine unoaked Chardonnay, instead of apple juice, and perhaps a wine glass holder attached to the actual CT machine would calm people down. Both suggestions were greeted with a certain laugh and smile, which told me she had heard this sort of thing many times by other equally as nervous and apprehensive patients.

Before I knew it, the CT scan was over and done with. I had a few moments where my heart beat a little faster when the dye was actually sent racing through my veins. Most people heat up a bit when that happens, and you get a sensation of urinating on yourself. Let me be clear. That does not happen. It just feels like it, which is a disconcerting sensation the first time, but as this was my third, I expected and anticipated it. As I was escorted out of the room by a young girl that was being trained on the CT machine, all I could think of was that if the scans continued to show no distant disease, I only had two more of these things to go through before being declared cancer free.

The trainee removed my IV line while telling me in a wistful voice that she was not yet allowed to put one in. She had to watch that procedure a certain amount of times before being allowed to do it. Well, if her removal technique is anything to go by, she is going to be great, plus there was her whole enthusiasm for putting in a line. Never discount a person’s love for her job. I asked her if she could please ask Christine to come out to see me before I left. I wanted to make sure I thanked her and to remind her that she would be mentioned in my blog.

I would venture to say that the vast majority of people getting a CT scan for the purpose of seeing if they have metastatic cancer are pretty nervous. Perhaps terrified, depending on their circumstances. Me? I would say anxious pretty much covers it. I’m never quite trustful of my body and how I perceive my health, as I was betrayed by both when I was told I had cancer. Going to get any of these tests on a yearly basis just brings up all the horror again. I do my best to mask it for other people as I’ve found falling apart is not all that helpful, and for some it is distasteful. When I do break down, I do it in private, as should be the way of all ugly crying.

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Cancer, for me, has had a unique way of creating self doubt and fear. When Christine came out to see me, I did NOT say anything of this to her. I kept our conversation light by simply saying thank you. I thought it was important. People like her make this yearly ritual a smidgen better. It’s essential to let them know they are appreciated.

It’s going to be a few weeks before I know the results of all my tests, but I’m hopeful that this sequel to my first anniversary is going to be a blockbuster, with a 100% Rotten tomatoes rating.banner-2136190_960_720

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