gallery Cancer Recurrence: The 5 and 10 year waiting game!
The most scary word for anyone who has been through any sort of cancer is: recurrence.
It’s funny, I didn’t use this word frequently before 2015. Now it’s used in every single appointment, cancer conversation, and frequently in my private thoughts. As time passes, my breast cancer experience moves a little further away from me, yet at times it seems closer than ever. Cancer… the beautiful gift that keeps on giving!
My New Reality
The doctors can’t really predict what is going to happen to me, they can only monitor me closely, give me the ‘wonder-drug’ Tamoxifen, (side effects and all), and tell me that once I reach 5 and 10 years, my survival rate will increase dramatically. Cool. Anyone see what kind of mind-f#&! that is to live with?!?
Although my chances for recurrence are low (ish), I’m constantly tested for any hints of recurrence. And if there are any hints, they need to follow up on that. Because I’m just waiting to get to that magical 5 year mark remember. And what does that even mean? Doctors use the five year mark from diagnosis as a benchmark to assess my survival outlook, and lucky me… I’m still 2 years away from the seemingly magical 5-year mark!
After all of my treatments and surgeries, doctors use terms like ‘elevated tumor markers’, and ‘we just want to be sure it’s nothing’… except, they can’t really be sure it’s nothing… it’s physically impossible for me now. In most cases these ‘hints of cancer’ are nothing… sort of like chasing a red herring in a movie, but my doctors have to be sure. These periods of elevated stress are the new normal for me, my family and my friends. Consequently though, worries about recurrence cannot leave me entirely, I simply find ways to face those fears and enjoy life despite them.
Life After Cancer
Life after cancer is uncharted territory. You begin to close one chapter and live in your new normal state… then BAM… you have a startling reason to rip the cancer book wide open again. If you’re not a person who normally asks for help, and people are used to you being strong and independent, it can be isolating. I mean who wants to be that friend who always needs help, has yet another personal drama, or cannot do simple things for herself such as putting hair in a pony tail, showering, or getting out of bed.
It’s hurtful. And it makes me angry. And scared. And sad all at the same time. As if cancer isn’t bad enough, the feeling of having zero control over my future can be enough to set this control freak into a tailspin!
Any tips on waiting for your 5 and 10 year marks? Share your stories in the comments below.