As I parked my car at my cancer center last Friday, I thought to myself, ‘This is my last “double-stick Friday”!’ Friday is not a day I see patients so it is the day I typically choose to be a patient. The first stick is a blood draw, which marks the beginning of every medical oncology appointment. Two vials of blood are drawn. Most of the phlebotomists are amazingly adept, which is very important when working with cancer patients, who have veins that are no stranger to the needle. My blood is always drawn on my left arm because I had lymph node removal on my right side. Prior to cancer, I’d had one I.V. placement when giving birth to my daughter 16 years ago and blood draws on a very infrequent basis for some of my annual physicals. Since cancer, my left arm and left hand have been poked and prodded many times a year for blood draws and surgeries. I didn’t even have I.V. chemo and I can tell the difference.

My name was called by an unfamiliar phlebotomist. But they have all been good so I didn’t worry. Then I noticed that it was taking her a very long time to find a vein. I have what they call “difficult” veins. This is why I often get the I.V. line placed in the back of my hand, which by the way, which is kind of ouchie. I could also tell that she was getting nervous. I close my eyes during blood draws because it helps me relax and also because I like to give people privacy to do their job without my staring at their work. I kept feeling the tap tap tapping of her index finger on the inside of my arm and some whispered nervousness. She stuck the needle and then the draw was taking a really long time. Usually, the phlebotomist lets me relax my fist once the needle has been placed. But she didn’t. She kept apologizing and then finally gave up. It wasn’t an adequate blood draw. Then she peered at my arm again, anxiously fretting as she did so. I kept saying, “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” She found a vein on the outside of my forearm. This was a new sticking spot.

Again, more time passed than usual. I didn’t mind the extra needle sticking as much as her distress and repeated apologies. Finally, the vials were filled. She fretted over the bruise she knew would be left and in attempt to prevent it, wrapped my arm tightly with medical tape.

I walked upstairs for my oncology appointment with two bandages on my left arm. It would be “triple-stick Friday”. The last stick would be a Lupron shot into my left hip. I have been getting Lupron shots every three months for over two years. Their function is to disrupt the signal from my pituitary gland to my ovaries, which respond by producing progesterone and estrogen. This is a non-surgical way of “shutting down the ovaries” and putting a woman into a near instant and possibly reversible menopause.

And yes, over two years ago, I entered menopause. At the time, Lupron was more commonly used to treat prostate cancer. There was a photo of a smiling middle aged man on the package that held the pre-filled syringe. This struck a few of us in the breast cancer community as funny. The man on the package looked far too happy with his cancer status and the fact that his testes were going to be “shut down” by Lupron.

In three months, the Lupron will wear off and I will wait and see what kind of change ensues. I asked my oncologist what I might expect to happen. It was quickly clear to me as she explained the possible factors (my natural menopause time and the fact that both Lupron and tamoxifen, which I am still taking can cause irreversible menopause) that this was a hard outcome to predict. I said, “Ah, there are many factors involved and they are all DYNAMIC.” Then I covered my eyes and pantomimed throwing a dart. Dr. Rinn replied, “You got it, it’s like throwing a dart at a moving car.”

Like throwing a dart at a moving car.

A great deal of life is like this. My health, parenting a teen.

Mindfulness is like throwing a dart at a moving car with my eyes open.

Wide open.