On October 28th, only 7 short months after my diagnosis, my surgeon informed me that the pathology report from my mastectomy shows that I am now cancer free. Great news. Exactly what we had hoped to hear. This battle that I have been fighting is over.
One friend asked me how I was feeling about being cancer free. I responded honestly, saying, “I have only known that I had cancer for 7 months and I’m still processing that news. When I finally understand how I feel about having cancer I’ll let you know how I feel now that it is gone.”
It is hard to put down in words exactly how I feel, when truthfully, I don’t really know yet. Of course, I am relieved that the worst is over. Chemotherapy and surgery are behind me, and now I can look ahead to reconstruction and recovery. When I think back over the last 7 months, it almost feels like I am remembering someone else’s memories. That what I experienced couldn’t really have happened to me. Did I really go through chemo? lose my hair? lose my breasts? It still doesn’t feel real.
Another friend gifted me the book, “1001 Ways to Slow Down”. #1 is to unplug. I allowed myself a few podcast/kindle/Netflix free moments this week and during my quiet introspection, I began to wonder if I am the same person who I was 7 months ago. The same wife. Mother. Friend. Do I really hope that I came through this whole experience unscathed and hope to return to life before or do I embrace the ups and downs that cancer brought and seek to rediscover myself now that I am on the other side? OR do I guard myself against overthinking and just let life happen and see what comes?
On top of the extreme relief from hearing that I am cancer-free, there is a new level of fear that I hadn’t let myself feel before. In theory, having cancer is scary, but I never felt scared. When I was in active treatment, receiving my weekly and bi-weekly chemotherapy infusions, and preparing for surgery, I was actively fighting against the cancer cells trying to grow inside my body. My doctors were closely monitoring my progress and from the start, my cancer was responding well to treatment. We were taking action and it was working.
Now that I am “cancer free”, there is nothing that I can do to prevent my cancer from coming back. The fighting is over. Whatever happens from here is beyond my control. I can continue to live a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, but even that does not guarantee that my cancer won’t return. I hate that the fear of recurrence has already started and hope that as time goes on, the fear becomes more muted.
For now, I will try to keep moving forward, live in the moment, not sweat the small stuff and show appreciation and gratitude.