Certain words, or things, although benign in and of themselves, assume a second – and negative – meaning when associated with cancer.
For example, relapse, which is obvious. But also blast, which is not so clear.
This came to mind yesterday when I was thinking of how I had relapsed in my good intentions to do strength training. Even saying it to myself caused a shudder. Because, of course, relapse is what happened to me twice.
But what about blast?
"A blast from the past," a college friend wrote to me.
"I had a blast," people say.
Well, for me, blasts are what I do not want to see in my blood test results. Because blasts are the immature white blood cells in the bone marrow that spill out into the bloodstream of patients with leukemia, preventing the formation of normal blood cells.
When I look at my blood test results, I always want to see a zero after the word blasts. I don't remember what it was upon diagnosis, but it was high. Thankfully it has stayed at zero since that day that my donor, Denise, saved me : January 31, 2009.
For a while after that when the word "pending" came up on the printout after the word blasts, I waited on edge until all the results came in. Now I am more relaxed, but I am sure if you took my blood pressure while I was waiting for my results, it would be at least slightly elevated.
Then there is chicken pot pie. In a way you'd think I'd be grateful for it because it was a staple during my hospital stays when so many other things were unappetizing or just plain too hard to swallow. But I ate so much of it that I would be happy to never eat a chicken pot pie again. Actually the smell or sight of one can even make me queasy.
And another: Diane gave me a soft long-sleeved blue shirt from the Gap for wearing in the hospital during one of my stays. Afterwards, I wore it at home. I can remember wearing it on the night I went to the emergency room upon my relapse in December, 2008. It's nice and I don't want to give it away and sometimes when it's cold I like to wear it, but still.
Also, a thought I do not really like to entertain: What if I need to go in again and I have given away all of my hospital clothes?
These things are not intense like the sound of a gun shot would be for a war veteran suffering from full-blown PTSD. I can deal. It is fine. But associations are always around, reminding me that although thankfully it is gone, it never totally goes away.