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Friday, February 8, 2013

The ¢o$t of Cancer

Yesterday I had some time to kill before a dinner and I found myself roaming around Bloomingdale's. My feet were hurting so I went in the shoe department and asked if I could have a pair of little half pads to put in my shoes. Next thing I know I left with a pair of hand made leather and fabric boots from Mexico. I then meandered into my favorite Free People section to see if there were any good sales.  Alas, I left with a pair of black and silvelamé pants. On my way out I detoured through the cosmetics section (for those who don't know it, I'm a cosmetics junkie). I didn't see anything I wanted but a salesperson (who I later called the hooker) lured me in by telling lil' ol' vulnerable me how great I looked but wouldn't I want to sit down and see how he can miraculously brighten my eyes? I obliged and figured, hey, I'll just let him show me a few items so I look good for dinner while I rest my sore feet. The equivalent of a mortgage payment later...

I have to admit that normally I can just as easily persuade myself not to buy something as I could to buy something. But now things are different because you know, I have this card. Not the credit card, the cancer card. With each purchase I found myself saying, Fuck it, why not, life is too short to care, as my conscience was saying, Really, do you need this? You realize chemo doesn't eradicate credit card bills, right?... Well, we all know which side won. There's something to be said for retail therapy and I believe as long as I can admit it, then it's OK. 

Along with retail therapy come other monetary costs for having cancer. There are medical co-pays, switching to organic foods, weekly massages, visits to the acupuncturist, a nutritionist, a healer, taxi cabs to all of these appointments, supplements, specialty books, and it's yet to be determined if I'll visit the Chinese herb specialist. Not everyone makes these choices, but I do because I believe that chemo alone is not going to help me win this fight. 

The biggest price to pay though, and the point of today's entry, is not doing anything (or everything) when you feel there's something wrong with you. From the time I resurfaced on this blog, I've failed to mention how the discovery of the cancer in my lungs happened. Simply put, I had a very persistent cough. Over the course of the year I had had some aches and pains and one result of my hormone levels seemed unusually high. But the levels came down after going off Tamoxiphen and the aches and pains were partially attributed to said medication (according to my last oncologist). This cough though, it wouldn't go away for months, if anything it just got worse. One doctor suggested I had a post-nasal drip and prescribed nasal steroids, which when I used them, made me choke more. I thought my new work environment (basement level of a very old building) was not healthy and reluctantly I had to consider changing jobs. 

Finally in mid-September on a sunny day out in the Hamptons, after months of taking cough serums and allergy medicine, my bubby friend, Dana aka Dana Banana aka Dr. Dana, said to me, Liz, I want you to get a chest X-ray tomorrow and come see me in my office. And so I did. And that X-ray led to a Cat scan which resulted in a visit to the pulmonologist and so on and so forth. If Dana hadn't pushed me to get that X-ray, perhaps at some point I would've gotten one, but really my next thought was to go to an ENT and who knows how much longer and more rounds of antibiotics it would've taken me to get one. Because really, who would've thought I had cancer? Honestly, even when I learned there were tumors all over my lungs, until the chemo helped get rid of the cough, I insisted the cough was due to a nasal issue. 

This isn't to say that if you have a cough you should be freaking out because you have cancer. What I'm trying to get across is, if you have a condition that's not going away, look at all of your options including getting second opinions. In retrospect I wonder why the first doctor didn't send me for a chest X-ray, but perhaps he didn't want to be an alarmist. Or perhaps he just didn't know what he was doing. I don't know and at this point I don't care. I do know now that you have to always consider your entire medical history and you want a doctor who can think out of the box

So with that said, I'd like to dedicate this entry to Dana Gail Cohen, my friend since elementary school, whose birthday was yesterday and who has been by my side throughout this whole ordeal. I love you, Dana Banana, and will never forget how you have managed to be both a friend and a doctor to me, a difficult task when you're so close. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I leave you with super warm wishes on this snowy day for a great weekend, one during which you enjoy everything you do and the person with whom you're doing it, even if it's just yourself. 

PS Photo credits to my friend Adam whose message about fighting I included in my last entry. I edited the Rocky type so I could really put the message out to the universe!