There are certain dates in our lives that immediately become etched into our memories, in an effortless manner, on account of the emotional impact they leave on us. My memory has been compromised by chemotherapy treatment, “chemo-brain”, I can say without a doubt, is a real thing. But there are dates I will always remember, despite my altered memory.
January 11th, 2017, (just a few days ago), turned into one of those relevant dates.
I met with my oncologist that day, mainly to check up on how I have been recovering from the side-effects brought on by chemo. I still shuffle out of bed with achy joints and muscles, and struggle with lowered energy, but I have been informed that at this point, this is normal, that it can take 3 months before I will start to notice any major improvements.
What turned January 11th into such a significant day, were hearing the words “cancer-free”, upon my asking what exactly my status was in regards to my health. To my surprise, technically, I have been considered “cancer-free” ever since I had my second surgery, on July 21, 2016.
I have heard many breast cancer survivors use the term, NED, or No Evidence of Disease, or that they were in remission. And I know for many, reaching the 5-year mark, without further incident, is a major milestone, as the chances of recurrence apparently become even lower. So those were honestly the last words I had expected to hear from my doctor. Everyone with a breast cancer diagnosis, even us “early-stagers”, have to learn to live with uncertainty. Approximately a third of all women diagnosed at an early stage will have either a local recurrence, or worse, a metastasis. Something I was entirely unaware of when I was first diagnosed. I didn’t really learn of this, in all honesty, until months down the road. Detecting this disease at an early stage is important, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. I just hope with all my heart, that I am one of the 70% who does not have to deal with this ever again!
Getting back to those precious words I heard from my doctor… wow, it was so incredible to hear her say that! Cancer-free! I was elated, and experienced a wonderful sense of calm for the rest of the day, like never before. My worries dissolved, vanished, and I actually felt “relaxed”.
I had imagined myself celebrating the following day, on the 12th, but worrying thoughts and fear started festering in my mind and it didn’t take long before they snowballed, until I was swallowed into a massive state of “uncertainty”. Ugh!
I went all the way from wanting to celebrate being declared cancer-free, to crawling in doubt and paranoia about whether it’s actually okay for me to think I am truly in the clear! I know these feelings are common among breast cancer survivors, and they are something I am going to have to learn how to manage.
Thinking, “I am cancer-free”, feels amazing. Maybe I just need to keep telling myself that. Maybe that should become my new mantra.
I am scheduled for a follow-up MRI by the end of this month. Actually, I have been anticipating this MRI ever since my last surgery. Once I have that additional bit of reassurance that “everything looks good”, it will be easier for me to fully embrace the idea that I am okay. Considering things were not very straightforward last year, that there were curve-balls and so many surprises, I feel I need this extra reassurance so I can really spend more time fully believing and celebrating that I am “Cancer-free”! I do feel positive and am not anticipating anything of concern to appear following this MRI. I suppose I am just being cautiously optimistic.
It is hard to believe that it was sometime this week last year that I was anxiously awaiting for my first appointment at the breast clinic. I had already been seen at a walk-in clinic and was referred for an ultrasound and mammogram for January 19th, the day my life changed forever. What a long road this has been.
Hugs, Love and all my Gratitude to everyone who has reached out and given me so much support throughout this long and tremendous journey! ❤ ❤ ❤