Recovery

How I celebrated my 50th birthday…

I continue not to have cancer (yay!) and I continue to have to be monitored to confirm this (blech). Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful that I am cancer-free (obviously) and understand how important it is to keep a watchful eye. It just sucks, and this is my blog so I get to whine.

This monitoring consists of seeing my lovely oncologist every six months. A day or so prior to the visit, I can go to any Scripps clinic in town to get a blood test. The blood test checks for various cancer markers and hormone levels, and also some organ functions and nutrition levels. For example, apparently Vitamin D is a powerful anti-cancer (I’ve heard it’s also an anti-Covid, so take your Vitamin D, people!), so that’s one of the metrics.

The liver is also a place that cancer likes to target, so there are a few liver tests included. I have learned the hard way to go easy on the drink prior to these tests: one time I’d gone to a party a couple of days beforehand, and maybe indulged a bit too much. My liver numbers were out of range, and Dr. Cancer made me avoid alcohol for a full month and retake the blood test.

So it’s good timing that this year I decided to do a dry January when my appointment with Dr. Cancer was scheduled for Friday, January 22nd. I’ve done a dry January once before, in 2019 (I did not manage to pull it off in 2020), going from the end of New Year’s festivities to my birthday, on January 25th. So, feeling pretty confident about the state of my liver, on January 21st I went to the local clinic to do the blood draw. The phelbotomist was taciturn but efficient, and I did not feel a thing.

Typically, when all the test results are within expected range, they appear in my online chart within hours. I know that when only some tests appear, at least one of the results is out of range. By the end of Thursday, this was the case, with some results missing; so I was looking forward to the next day’s appointment to learn the results.

The next day I dressed in my hiking gear and headed out. Dr. Cancer’s office is not nearby, and is en route to one of the easier hikes that is part of the 100 Peaks Challenge I am working on, so why not kill two birds with one stone? As I pulled up to the trail head, the phone rang – Dr. Cancer needed to reschedule. Crap. (I still did the hike, of course.)

Now I had a problem. It was Friday, January 22nd. My birthday – and not just any birthday; my 50th birthday!! – was a mere three days away. I was definitely planning on ending my dry month with a bang. But without the results of my blood test, I did not know if I would be allowed to. Later that afternoon, on the phone with the nurse I learned that two of the tests had indeed come back out of range. One was calcium, which was too high (who cares). But the other was something called alkaline phosphatase. A cursory Google search turned up the word “liver” here and there. Boooooooo.

So guess what I did first thing Monday morning, which happened to be MY FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY? That’s right, I got another blood test, yay! This time instead of a surly but competent phlebotomist, I got a chipper but nervous girl who introduced herself as a student – oh joy. She took one look at my skinny veins (the only thing “skinny” on my whole body) and said, “Do they usually use a butterfly needle?” (I have determined that the really good ones don’t – almost like it’s a challenge not to – but I did not tell her that.) Mr. Surly poked his head in to keep an eye on things which was nice. I assured the young woman that it’s ok, I have a very high pain tolerance (which is true). In the end it was mostly painless but not bruise-less.

My oncology nurse was a sweetheart and stayed on top of things. By the afternoon she gave me my results – everything was normal (both the calcium and the alkawhatever phophathingy). She told me that she could not technically tell me it was ok to drink, but, hint hint, everything is fine, and I should ENJOY my birthday, hint hint. Cheers to me and turning fifty! So can we start day drinking now??? (Yes. Yes, we can.)

Opening my surprise birthday gift!

4 thoughts on “How I celebrated my 50th birthday…

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