My friend Kate sent me this quote on the day of my full body scan, which was also the day of the vernal equinox. She said it was no coincidence that the scan was to occur on this transitional day.
The day began with an early morning drive over the pass to the hospital where I had gotten the RAI one week earlier. My friend Jenny drove me since I was in no condition to be behind the wheel. When we arrived, the nuclear medicine technician led us both back to the testing room. He asked me if I am claustrophobic. I said, “I don’t think so.” Well, I didn’t think so until I opened my eyes to find the machine just millimeters from my nose. Suddenly a feeling of panic developed within me. Fortunately, my rational brain quickly took over and decided that panicking was not going to help the situation. Instantly a few techniques I have practiced kicked into autopilot: breathing, audiation, and visualization.
I attend a weekly restorative yoga class where I have been in the practice of holding one gentle pose for 10-15 minutes while focusing on my breathing. This form of meditation was the first technique I used to stay calm and focused. In reality, the scan is not a difficult process, but knowing I needed to stay still in this machine for 40 minutes did take some mental creativity to manage.
Once my breathing was slow and regular, the first thing that popped into my mind was the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” At the time, that was my happy place. Why, I wondered? When I thought about it, the message for me was that reality is not always as scary as what we fear in our heads. When I was a child, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie…except for the tornado. I was so afraid of the tornado that I refused to visit my aunt who lived in Kansas. Reality: Tornados are dangerous, BUT the chance of being caught in one (and transported to Oz to meet a wicked witch) is highly unlikely (especially growing up in Massachusetts). Reality: Cancer can be deadly, BUT I am fortunate to have a good prognosis and to have caught it early. I am doing everything within my control to take care of myself. This is a temporary condition and I know I will get through it.
The rest of the scan was a surreal retrospective/flash forward as a 70's/80’s rock radio station played a soundtrack to my visualization of the upcoming year. Aerosmith sang to me while I visualized a visit to Las Vegas in April to see my husband perform with his percussion quartet, and to catch a few rays sitting by the pool. Elton John was my muse while I imagined a fabulous sister weekend in Denver with Kerri. Guns and Roses sang to me while I imagined a road trip in June, with my husband (and a new puppy?) to visit family and celebrate our niece’s high school graduation. Billy Joel serenaded me while I imagined a fun and epic road trip with my mom traveling from Florida to Colorado. Finally, David Bowie sang to me while I visualized our trip to South Australia in January for teaching and performing. In my mind, this also includes lazy days at the beach, exploring Australia’s wine country, and a cage dive with great white sharks!
Although it is important to live in the present moment, there is also value in looking forward. Having something to look forward to in a time of darkness sheds light and energy on your day. Having dreams and making plans can be a positive way to remember, “this too shall pass.” Life is a series of transitions. I recall with great clarity a lecture given by the composer David Maslanka during my undergraduate years at the University of Massachusetts. He drew a shape on the blackboard that looked like this:
He then described life as a series of these passageways:
Our whole life we transition from one wide, expansive space to another, but in order to get to the next wide, open space, we must pass through these narrow, uncomfortable spaces that challenge us. Similar to passing through a birth canal, it is a passageway to another phase in our lives. I have always remembered these wise words at challenging times in my life and the visual image is a beacon of hope. There is comfort in the certainty that the challenge or discomfort is a temporary condition and that beyond it lies the next open and expansive space.
The scan came to an end and it was time to go home. The med tech let me take a picture of my scan with my phone, and told me off the record it looked normal to him, in other words – no metastasis! You can see my thyroid bed shining like the North Star, some radiation in my salivary glands just above it, and then the path of radiation through my digestive system.
My follow up with the endocrinologist will be April 4th and at that time I will get the official results and find out what the next steps will be. There is some concern that there is too much residual thyroid tissue left and it could mean a third surgery, but my hope is that this narrow passageway is about to give way to a new wide, open, expansive space.
I have been on the thyroid replacement hormones now for two weeks now and I dare say I am starting to feel like myself again. My husband was home last week for his spring break and we had a wonderful time together, catching up with friends and soaking in hot springs. The weather has shifted toward spring, which means long walks along the Rio Grande and summer is around the corner.
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.