How long does it take to walk out a blood clot? That’s the puzzle life has handed me.
It took two miles to find it. The first mile an easy walk, like the days or hours before I was diagnosed with cancer, when life could be bad, but not that bad.
The second mile a struggle, searching for places to rest, my heart beating faster than it should but not pounding. My breath labored, but not out-of-breath.
I emailed my surgeon about my newfound difficulties. I’d had a biospy a few days before as part of a #PrecisionMedicine clinical trial I am in. Every time a drug fails, my doctors take a closer look at my cancer cell to see how it’s changing to see if there are new treatment options for me. The biospy was suppose to be a calkwalk. The day after the surgery I was traipsing through museums in New York City, where I’d had the surgery.
My surgeon’s nurse called back to say my fatigue was just part of the recovery process that could take a month or more to resolve. No, what I was feeling was not part of the recovery process.
I emailed my surgeon again, this time with numbers – the distance I’m used to walking, the ground I can now barely cover, my heart rate now, my heart rate as I know it for just walking. Numbers got his attention.
“Go to the urgent care,” his nurse said when she called back.
After hours of being poked and prodded, tested and scanned they found a blood clot in my lungs. I am now on blood thinners and have added a hematologist to my retinue of doctors. The blood thinners will stop new clots from forming, but they won’t dissolve this one. For that, I walk. Sometimes I struggle just to make it around the block. Other times I can walk a mile or more without distress. Recovery is never in a straight line.
And the cancer? It grows. It changes. And it remains uncertain and unpredictable. I wait on further test results. Maybe there’s another pill I can take. Maybe a promising clinical trial. If all fails, there’s hardcore, hair-losing chemo awaiting me which I’ll be on until it stops working. And then the process begins again: biopsy, pathology, promising clinical trial or chemo. This is life at year seven with metastatic breast cancer, the brass ring one gets for having outlived the three-year median survival rate. Further down the drug rabbit hole into the realm of surviving on chemo if new treatments aren’t discovered and approved.
I don’t yet know how many miles I need to walk to dissolve a blood clot. But I imagine the prescription is the same as living a life with the uncertainty cancer: Keep putting one foot in front of the other for as long as I can. And then, rest.