While on this cancer journey I have come to know quite a few people who have been on a similar journey. Several of these friends still have to get mammograms, and let me tell you, their trepidation over this is quite evident. And really, who can blame them? A test that has the ability to tell them that their cancer might have come back, yeah, I'd be a wreck too.
But the thing is, I've always told myself the one silver lining to the mastectomy is that I don't have to get a mastectomy now. I lean towards anxiety so if I had to get this done every 6 or 12 months, I would probably have a panic attack.
Instead, every 6 months I go and see the doctor who diagnosed me, usually in the same room where we first talked about the news (there are only 2 rooms that I've been in), and the kind doctor gives me a "physical exam," which is basically medical speak for she feels my entire chest area - including arm pits, up to my collar bone. She looks at how the skin is healing and checks my arms' rage of motion.
And I never feel nervous until I step foot into her office. Then the anxiety sky rockets.
Yesterday, I had my 6 month check-up. I was sitting in the waiting room when they opened the door to call another patient back. It made a noise. I jumped. Not just a little, I mean, they all turned toward me and the nurse asked if I was okay.
I said yes, but really, it was a lie. I was freaking out. I don't think it helped that at my last 6 month check-up she found a lump (that turned out to be nothing of consequence) but I had to walk out and wonder if the cancer was back. That is hard on a person ... even when the doctors say it's probably not, but we need to be sure. Because it was highly unlikely to be cancer when they originally found the cancer. And I'm naturally anxious. And I just learned about my super low iron levels. And I just knew I couldn't take another appointment where they might maybe be something wrong that we might maybe need to keep an eye on or test or check or follow-up on.
All of this anxiety, that never hits until I am in the office.
However, my doctor is wonderful, the whole staff is. And so I went for my appointment, I got checked out, we chatted, and it ended with an "everything is good ... see you in 6 months." And as I walked to my car, a huge weight, that I hadn't realized was there, was lifted.
Mammogram or not. Mastectomy or not. Check-up or not. 1 year later, 2 years later, I assume 10 years later, there is always going to be that fear there - the fear that the cancer has come back. It is ever-present, usually somewhere in the background, and occasionally it hops to the front to remind me I'M STILL HERE.
But I trudge through it. Another day passes. Each good doctor's appointment feels like a win. The anxiety lessons. Life marches on, because that's what life does. And somewhere inside of me, I shout back to the fear that the cancer will return, even louder than it shouts to me "YEAH, WELL I'M STILL HERE TOO. SO THERE!"