Sometime in January I read that the movie, Groundhog Day, would be having its’ 30th anniversary and that it will be on the AMC channel all day. I think I was the only one who thought that was funny. It was a brilliant movie with Bill Murray who repeated the same days’ events over and over again. All I remembered is that he kept doing it until he got it right and he went from sarcastic and cynical to compassionate and joyful.
While waiting for the movie, I couldn’t help but notice unpleasant changes in my body. It has been almost 3 years that treatment for T-Cell lymphoma ended — being in remission was an unexpectedly difficult transition from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor. I went from feeling lost and uneasy with a cloud of cancer over my head to finding the courage to move beyond the cloud and onto a fresh new path. It was hard to grasp onto wellness and start a new life at 70 but I was determined to move forward.
It was time to see my oncologist for my 6-month checkup and the last time I saw him he said that as long as I continue to be OK pet scans would now take place annually. On this visit however I spoke about the unpleasant changes in my body — enlarged lymph nodes and fatigue. Another Pet scan took place, sooner than expected, which made me feel both relieved and anxious. I wanted to pursue wellness but now I was scared all over again.
The Pet scan results appeared on my MSK portal very quickly and it showed the measurements for numerous enlarged lymph nodes, some I knew about and some a complete surprise, and in the space for impressions, it noted that there was a 75% probability that it was lymphoma. My oncologist made room in his schedule to see me the next day to talk about the result and I was grateful because now sleepless nights filled with short anxious breaths were added to my list of physical complaints.
Anxiety is a totally draining experience — negative thoughts occupied my brain. Am I going to need chemotherapy again? Lose my hair? If so, will it grow back thick and curly like it originally was or would it be even more thin and limp than it is now? Is my will in order? I can’t concentrate on anything else, and these intruding thoughts are anxiety doing its’ work on my brain while my body is worn out with shortness of breath and a faster than normal heartbeat. Even though my oncologist made the appointment for the next day, it was the longest day. With exasperation I said to my husband, “I can’t believe I have to go through this again.”
His answer explained it all: “Well, it is Groundhog Day.”
So, on Groundhog Day, I learned that I indeed have lymphoma again — a biopsy is needed to find out what kind of lymphoma I have and what kind of treatment will take place. Like the last time, I felt oddly calmer learning this news. Now, I suppose , it is because I am more familiar with the path of cancer treatment than I am with the road to wellness. I will be taken care of and like in the movie I will have an opportunity to do it all over again, and make positive changes.
As I was having my own Groundhog day, we went home and watched the movie. The Bill Murray character changed from sarcastic and cynical to loving and kind. When he discovers that he is repeating each day over and over again he realizes he can do anything he wants and has nothing to lose. He performs a series of daring events like jumping off buildings and crashing cars, to finding out what his love interest enjoys and feigns interest until finally he experiences authenticity. He genuinely cares about her and all the people around him, expressing kindness and compassion to those he previously either ignored or showed contempt for.
So, what about my own Groundhog Day? As I wait for the biopsy, final diagnosis and treatment, I have the same question as I had before — will I survive this? I now believe that it is the wrong question. I have no control other than to be diligent in following the course of treatment. Anxiety is wasted energy, it only makes things worse and no one has control over the future. So the question to ask is, How can I get through this with a full and open heart?