For a survivor, the threat of cancer is something that ALWAYS lingers, even after treatment. I am reminded of it daily through the struggles of others. From my high school friend Patty, who passed away after her second bout with the disease to my dear friend who just finished treatment after having her breast cancer rear it's ugly head for the second time as well. Each person who has dealt with cancer is effected in different ways, having multiple ranges of emotions from one end of the spectrum to another. However YOU deal with the devastation of the disease is your reality.
I remember when I finished six months of radiation and two and a half months of chemo and had to go for my final visit to my medical oncologist for post-treatment examination. We talked about the treatment, it's effects, and how I was feeling. He did a quick physical examination. Told me I had the all clear and released me to go on my merry way. I was more than glad to be finished with the toxic chemicals and radiation but was somewhat taken aback that he didn't request I come back periodically for scans and labs just as a precautionary measure. Honestly, I was down right nervous about being just turned away into the cold, post-cancer world to fend for myself. I thought, What happens if it comes back? How will I know before it's too late?
Now fast-forward to a text I received from my friend two days ago, who was devastated because she was told her cancer was in remission (meaning the treatment worked) and had to return to the doctor in three months. Devastated because she wasn't told she was cancer free and devastated she had to return. We were essentially told the same thing but our perceptions were totally different. Rightfully so because for her, she has a strong family history of cancer and because this was her second encounter with the disease. This certainly changed my perspective about how I felt about being medically 'released' into the world. Needless to say I won't whine about that anymore.
Now, let's fast-forward to tonight, as I am laying in the bed watching TV and get a weird sensation under my arm. I go to scratch and realize there is a lump there. It's small, kind of close to the surface, and slightly tender. It could very well be an ingrown hair or some other simple irritation. But guess what, that's not my reality. My very first thought is What if the cancer is back? I'm trying not to think about it, but how can I? The fear is very real. So now I will call my doctor first thing in the morning and schedule and appointment to be seen. Meanwhile, while I'm doing water aerobics, I'll be thinking about it. While I'm eating, I'll be thinking about it. And tonight, while I'm sleeping, I'll be dreaming about it. Until my doctor appointment, cancer is my reality. Here's to just another bump in the road.