Friday, September 7, 2012

Time with Cancer

I was diagnosed with cancer a little more than 3 years ago on August 17th, 2009. I've been curious to know how many appointments I've had since then, so like Jeff Probst might say, "Let's tally the vote."

Yesterday, at my most recent MUGA, I requested that they print out all the tests I'd had in their facility.  Last night, I sat down and added my doctor's appointments and chemos - going through old calendars, my iPhone, and relying on memory. It helps that all of my oncology appointments have been Wednesdays. The final number may be more or less than I remembered, as once you go as regularly as I do, you just stop keeping physical track.

To date, I have had:

5 biopsies
12 CTs
7 PETs
6 MRIs
1 Bone Scan
1 Dexa Scan
6 chest x-rays
2 shoulder x-rays
4 surgeries
1 cyst removal
5 hospitalizations
1 blood transfusion

That's the test/procedure tally.

Now on to doctor visits and chemos.  I have been to chemo and seen doctors in an appointment setting, as near as I can tell, 144 times.  (And, I suspect that number might be low).

Adding it up, that's over 200 medical appointments in 1000 days, and I'm not including hospitalizations and surgeries in that time.

An astonishing 20% of my time in the last three years has been in dealing with cancer.

It gets worse.  Not one of those appointments took less than 2 hours.  Many took a great deal longer, often up to 8 hours, especially the chemos.  If I average them out at 4 hours, (which I know for sure is low) that means I have spent 800 hours dealing with medical appointments.  Again, this doesn't include hospitalizations and surgeries.   I am guessing if I'd started out keeping an accurate count, it might be a lot higher.

It's pretty clear when tallying these numbers that cancer does not only steal your health, it robs you of a great deal of time.

If I'd spent that much time doing anything else, I'd be an expert by now.  In 800 hours, I could have learned to play the piano, or paint.  I could have gotten my commercial pilot's certificate.   I could have gone to the moon and back - five times.  I could have written a book.

Heck, if I put my mind to it, I could have even had a clean house.



  1. You have survived an unbelievable and unwelcome battle with humor and grace and patience. Thank you for sharing your story. I found your blog when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of 2011 after many months of unexplained pain and fatigue. She died in June this year, and in no way was she as gracious or compassionate as you have been. I loved her, but sure didn't like being around her, especially since the diagnosis. If its true that cancer just makes you "You, with cancer", then you have come across as honest, vulnerable, brave, and full of heart. I so admire you. Your stats above are heart-wrenching. I'm praying for you,Ann.

    1. Rosalita, thank you for the kind words. And, I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. The truth is, cancer doesn't change us very much, although if we are to judge by the movies, we suddenly become full of the wisdom of the ages. Maybe it enhances who we are a bit, so if we have a tendency to whine, we may do that more. My tendency is to inappropriate humor. :) Trust me, my family isn't that enamored of my death jokes either. :) I appreciate the warm words and prayers.

  2. What is truly amazing about those stats is that you also held down a job, are a Mom and a Wife, a Pet Owner, aaaannnddd you did write a book -- just in the form of blog entries. In fact, have you considered compiling your favorite blog entries into a single "book" and maybe letting us buy it? Just thinkin' out loud. I think Mark Morford did something like this and he added emails and observations. Whatcha' think? Note: It's amazing how much life we squeeze into all this, isn't it?

    1. Giving up the job was the hardest part. It's been two months now and I miss it. I stopped in yesterday for the first time, just to pick up a sick kid, and it made me sad. As for the book idea, people have mentioned that to me before. I have considered writing an e-book and selling it here, but I'm not sure what it would contain. I've said it all here, and for free! :) Would be nice, now that I'm out of work, to make some regular money. I don't know who Mark Morford is, will look him up. Thank you!

  3. It is amazing how much time we lose to this disease. Not just to the actual time with doctors and procedures, but travel time, time in waiting rooms, hospital rooms, organizing appointments, talking to insurance companies, keeping track of test results, adapting to work within the boundaries of side effects, even time just explaining our disease to other people.

    I hate to think what I could have mastered in my "cancer time."

    You totally should write a book. Just take your posts and condense them into a narrative. I know it would be a success.

  4. And that tally didn't include the blood tests. In just the 6 months between diagnosis and finishing chemo for Stage I HER2+ breast cancer, I had over 25 blood tests.

    Cloud Swift

    1. They do my blood tests right before my chemo, in the office there. Thank goodness I didn't have to do that separately, or that would have doubled the number of appointments!

  5. Amazing to see all the time spent broken down like this -- mind boggling.....

    In any case, I like this blog for it's Mets advocacy....:

  6. Ann,

    I'm sorry that cancer has taken so much time. This disease robs, steals, and takes. I think a lot of people would purchase a book you'd write. I'm sorry that you have also had to leave your job, something that meant so much to you.

  7. Hi Ann, Giving up the job was the hardest for me also. First diagnosed in 1998 and worked through my chemo. Came back in 2009 and had been working for the company for 23 years. I loved my job but couldn't do it anymore, The cancer came back to hip and femur, My hip was pending fracture. Now its been three years and I still miss it but enjoy other things I have tried to pick up to fill the void. After about a year I felt a little better but your right it was hard, Praying for you my friend, Ann


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