Today I had my annual check up at the oncologist. I hate that word, oncologist. I hate the word cancer and everything that goes along with it. But I do love the fact that it’s now been just about ten years since I was diagnosed and I am here writing about it. Yes, that I do love.
I was relatively young at the age of forty five when I was issued the news. My girls were just 15 and 13 and I still had both of my parents. I was in treatment for one full year. Lots and lots of chemotherapy followed by lots and lots of radiation. I had a lumpectomy which left me with lopsided breasts but I still got to keep them.
The things that went through my mind back then were the thoughts of just about any person who is going through treatment. “AM I GOING TO DIE?” Will I see my girls graduate, go to college, get married, have their own children? Will my parents have to bury me? Will my husband find someone else and remarry? My mind raced a lot back then despite being given a good prognosis. I had occasional panic attacks, even resulting in calling a cancer hot line at 3AM once when my husband was traveling. I was scared shitless. I was not ready to go anywhere damnit!
Once the treatment was over, I had to see my oncologist (there’s that word again) every three months. As if I hadn’t been stuck with enough needles (I was a brave idiot and opted out of getting a port) there were blood draws every time. Then after two to three years I only had to go every four months. And then it was six and now it’s once a year.
These past few weeks I have had pain in my breasts. So, my annual check up had to come a month early. And all the thoughts I’d had back then rushed back. Now, I am older. Now, I think differently than I did before my life changed on that July day of 2003.
I can’t feel a pain without getting nervous. Stomach ache? Cancer. Headache? Brain tumor. Joint pain? Bone cancer. Breast pain? Fuggedabout it. Nothing can happen to my body on any given day where my mind doesn’t immediately go to cancer. Must be cancer, has to be cancer. It’s certainly not an everyday thing but it happens enough. Have a person that’s never had cancer tell me that I shouldn’t worry so much. Those people need to read a fellow blogger’s cancer etiquette guidelines. They are perfect.
In the last ten years I did get to see my girls graduate. I saw them also graduate college and get jobs. I have had the luxury of being alive to see them grow into two beautiful young women that make me proud everyday. While I had the pain of having to bury my mother (who was taken by lung cancer), I am still here to be with my dad. My husband hasn’t had to find someone else (not unless he wants to leave me, in which case I’ll go all “Arias” on him).
I’ve moved into a new home and my business is doing well. So maybe that’s why today when driving to the Doctor I felt as though something had to go wrong. Good things don’t last forever, right? I had my life changed before, right? You can never be too confident, right?
So I went in today expecting bad news. But I didn’t get it. I got good news. “I don’t feel a thing” she said smiling. So after I left her office, which happens to be in the neighborhood where I grew up, I took a ride. I drove by the house where I grew up and the places I hung out. I drove by all my old friends houses. I remembered many, many things about my life. A trip down memory lane was important for me today to remind me that I have had a wonderful life.
I do still want more of this life though. I want to see my girls get married and have children. I want to grow really old with my husband and the rest of my family. I want more joys and travels and experiences. What I want and what I may get are two different things. But I will always have hope. Hope that every year when I visit my Doctor, she will tell me everything is okay.
My mother who was taken by cancer in 2009 always called me her butterfly. I found this at a vintage market last Saturday. I couldn’t agree more.