I appreciate a well-written suspense story as much as the next person, but when it comes to cancer scans, I love my family too much to bury that lede. My six-month scans are once again “clear with no indication of anything to worry about.” Wow, I love to hear that. (Also? I love that my oncologist reviews scans and has his nurse call the same day. He knows we fear. He knows.)
I’ve had contrast CTs every 6 months since I finished chemo, but I’ve been in so much abdominal pain lately, we moved December’s up to September, and that was today. With all the emotion around seeing Hamilton last night, I guess I put off stressing out about the scans until this morning, and then work was so busy, I was at the hospital halfway through the IV going in before that cloud of worry descended. Of course there’s no point in worry, right? Worry won’t change an outcome. But it’s hard not to. It’s too scary, the “what-if, what-if, what-if.” I get very quiet. I try to keep my heart rate down. I work to keep my mind blank.
The team I see doesn’t use the word “remission,” but instead “NED,” or “No Evidence of Disease.” I’ve been NED since mastectomy in October 2016. That makes next month 3 years cancer free. At my summer checkup, I asked, “Three years, that’s a milestone, right? At three years we…relax a little?” and he said, gently, “Every day is a milestone; there’s no magic number. Let’s get to ten years and then relax, okay?” I know why he says ten. It’s because even though the risk of recurrence for my kind of cancer is low, say 10-20%, after 8-10 years of the oral chemo protocol, the risk drops below 5%. He doesn’t use these percentages himself; he doesn’t like them. There are too many variables in each person’s cancer and treatment and DNA etc. etc. etc. Percentages feel like promises. And my risk reduction makes a large assumption: that I keep taking the drug. That’s assuming a lot. The side effects are life-changing; they’re terrible, and I honestly don’t know that I can tolerate them for 5+ more years, or even 5 more months. But sort of like just pedaling a bike, one revolution at a time, I just keep taking them, one pill at a time, one night at a time. Cancer treatment is not a single battle, but a war.
Once again, I put away worry about cancer and return focus to reversing its aftermath, which is wrecked body, wrecked brain, wrecked finances. And how do I do that? I sit with it. I sit and allow all of the thoughts and emotions to come and I release them back. And then I’ll go for bike ride.