Fear. I've got a lot of it.
I hesitate to talk about it though. It feels strange in the midst of others going through harder things, not that I think there is a who's got it worse competition, it just, well feels awkward. Not to mention, part of my fear comes from hearing other people's bad news. Which, on one hand, is understandable. But, on the other hand, it kind of makes me feel like a jerk - like I'm trying to make it about me.
I know though, I'm not trying to make it about me. I'm working through a lot of emotions that are sometimes heightened when I hear about other people's bad news. More specifically, when I hear someone's breast cancer has returned. A recurrence.
Recurrence is my biggest fear right now. It is not a paralyzing fear. Here's the thing - there is no cure for breast cancer. Sure, I am No Evidence of Disease (NED) right now, but do you know what that really means? It means they've checked me. They can't find evidence of cancer in my body right now. However, it could be there and be too small to see. It could be pre-cancer, just waiting to shift to cancer. A new cancer could be brewing. Or maybe nothing is going on at all. Who knows? Not me. Not my doctors. No one.
Now, I know, I know, I could be in a car accident tomorrow and tomorrow is promised to no one. That is all true, but those don't feel like real fears to me. That doesn't mean they can't happen. Lots of things can happen, but they are not there, staring me in the face, threatening me. Cancer is. I know the stats for my cancer. I know the 5-year survival rate. I won't go into now because we all know that a number is just a number and I could fall into either side of it. But I won't deny that the odds are not in my favor. I also know I've done all I could, but that may not mean anything tomorrow, or 5 years from now or 10.
So when someone I know and care about has a recurrence? It terrifies me. Completely. Um, let's be honest, if I heard about someone's recurrence second hand, without even knowing them, it would terrify me.
For whatever reason, this year has been the year of recurrence. I know more than a few women who have had recurrences this year: both locally (recurring in the breast) or somewhere else in the body (metastatic). It's pretty cruddy too. Isn't it enough that these people had cancer once? Now they've got to go through this sh*t again? It's awful. And it's terrifying.
Last week I had my 3 month oncology check-up. It was a good appointment. I checked out healthy and we talked a lot. She is very thorough and makes sure to check me out as a whole person and not just as cancer. We talked about mood, anxiety, etc. I admitted to her that my anxiety is elevated and I told her all of this (though, I was much less wordy with her). She got it right away. I even told her I wasn't trying to make it all about me and feeling guilty about that and she reassured me that my fear was natural and I wasn't a jerk. She also told me their practice had noticed the same thing - this seemed to be the year of recurrence.That half-calmed me (it wasn't all in my head) and then it terrified me. Because, let's be honest, I kind of wished it was all in my head.
Recurrence. That thought is always there, in the back of my head. Sometimes it jumps to the front of the list. Should I be worried about the new back pain? Or this fever? How about the tenderness in my armpit - I mean, I can't feel a lump, but is tenderness unexplained something I should tell the doctors? And oh yeah, I have this new freckle. Well, I think it's a freckle. Should I get it looked at? And all of this tumbles out while I'm sitting in my doctor's office.
I feel dumb letting it all out. I tell her though, "You know, it's probably nothing, but I'm here so I thought I should tell me. I mean, I wouldn't make an appointment just for it, but since I'm here already, I just wanted to point it out. Just in case. You know. Cause. Well ..."
But she smiles and nods. She looks, feels, examines. She tells me it's all okay, but if x, y, or z happens to call her back. She tells me that I could make an appointment just for these things, that it would be okay. She assures me I'm not being paranoid and that it's all natural.
I leave feeling lighter, less anxious. The fear, it slips back to the back of my mind. It's still there but it's not overwhelming.
This is the roller coaster I do not appreciate being on - the ups and downs, the anxiety that waxes and wanes. It is nothing new. I had anxiety before all of this. I have it now. It's changed, and yet somehow the same. But I've changed, and yet somehow I'm the same.
But for now, I'm on the easy part of the ride - the part of Splash Mountain where you are just riding this nice log on a calm little river, seeing a cute story play out in front of you.
I'll take it though. I'll stay on this part of the ride as long as I can.