So today was the day. Post treatment oncology check-round 2. In some ways I have been looking forward to going to this appointment just because I would get to hug my amazing oncologist and my nurses, but I do have to admit that there is a certain amount worry that tends to creep into my mind in the days, minutes and hours before I head to my oncology visits. I have felt it a little more this time around because of a few articles that found their way onto my feed in the past two days. 2 articles in particular that were written about my exact cancer and how it can become metastatic and spread to the entire body as well as another article about someone who is currently losing their battle with cancer as I type these words. The good news is that, I can finally glace at these headlines, and even read these articles without bursting into tears and tumbling into an obvious emotional tailspin. But deep down the words still evoke a certain amount of fear and unsettle my calm, positive, and optimistic demeanor just a bit.
While reading these articles I will admit that I was reintroduced to that dreaded cancer recurrence fear. You know, the fear that took over my world-mid treatment. The same fear that the very positive and optimistic “me” has been desperately trying to keep hidden in the darkest corners of my mind. Yep those are the fears. I actually didn’t realize it was bothering me… or I at least I thought I was doing a better job of hiding the fact that it was getting to me until yesterday’s casual text conversation with my hubby. He said, and I quote…. “Whoa babe. What’s going on? I feel like you’re reverting back to the fear stage. Did something happen? Seriously, you’re really worrying me here.” After reading through our texts, I guess I can see where he was coming from, but I really didn’t realize it was that obvious that I was worried. Just a week ago we causally talked about my cancer risks going forward and I shared a few things with him for the first time. I told him that I am now at peace with what the future holds for me. A recurrence has been my greatest fear since day one, and during my darkest moments this past year, I often told him that I didn’t know if I could do all of this again and still manage to keep to keep a positive attitude and a smile.
However the past year has taught me a lot about myself and how strong I really am. The truth is I hope that I never have to face cancer again, but the reality it is that it could happen. Honestly it could happen to any of us. This past year is proof of that. Yes, it was a very hard year… it still is hard, but I made it through the hardest treatments and I’m going to keep walking forward. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m on the other side of things now, or it’s because I am now able to see the good that has come from a very hard situation, but I now realize that although I never want to do this again, I can. And I made the promise that if I have too face cancer again, I will face it with the same strength, determination and hope as I did this past year. We were driving home from the airport when I said this, but in that moment everything seemed to go quite. I don’t think he knew what to say but after a long pause, he looked at me with a somewhat emotional face and said…. “I don’t know how do it Tam, but I know that I could never go through everything you have been through and face things the way you are facing them.” He then looked at me and told me that I am amazing. He doesn’t know it yet, but that was the biggest compliment he has ever given me. His words further motivated me to keep walking forward with even more strength and I kept that top of mind last night as I prepared for today’s appointment. I actually think knowing and accepting that I again have fears gave me power at the same time, because I checked a lot of things off my list in the midnight hours as I spent most of the night distracting myself with little side jobs and feverishly writing my “scarf-new look” post. Come 7am this morning, I was…. VERY TIRED, but I was also ready to hug my oncologist and I was ready to check this appointment off my list.
It was so great to see Dr. Melnik and her team. She of course greeted me with big hugs and lots of compliments on how great I am looking and then we got right into the details. We did discussed my ever growing list of post treatment side effects as well as, all the side effects that my hormone therapy is causing and will continue to cause for the next 15 years. She mentioned a post-cancer program at LH that has a team to address a lot of these conditions so she is enrolling me in that, and she has referred me to a few other specialists to help with some of the other post chemo issues as well. The good news is that from the outside, I appear to be doing very well and there are NO signs of cancer. In fact today’s blood test reveled that my cancer marker numbers are back down which is awesome. But the best part of today’s appointment was that Dr. Melnik for the first time said that….. she believes I AM IN REMISSION. Ok maybe Jordan posed the question, but she responded by saying “yes, I believe you are in remission”. I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat when I heard those words come out of her mouth. I’m not sure how many times I hugged her today, but there were many. I left with instructions to have anther chest X-ray/echo to check for post treatment heart damage and a small list of other docs to see, but I also left with a huge sigh of relief in my heart and a VERY big smile on my face.
The past few weeks have been full of painful and scary memories for me as nearly every single day is the one year anniversary of a scary moment from the beginning stages of my cancer journey, so I cannot think of three better words for me to hear today. You see today is the one year anniversary of the eve of my biggest surgery. At this moment one year ago today, I was preparing to lose two body parts that made me feel like a woman and I was facing the reality that my very scary situation was not in fact, just a bad dream. It was a nightmare that didn’t go away when I woke up and worst of all it was my reality. Looking back on this day I am astonished that I was not nervous going into such a big surgery and that I wasn’t fearful of the fact that this surgery would determine the course of treatment for this past year, but I am also very thankful that I hadn’t yet taken my game face off long enough to actually realize the magnitude of my situation. It was good that I was calm, optimistic and determined and most of all it was good that I started this journey off at peace with what was happening to me. I am sure that I will be reliving all of the moments of the first of many scary surgeries tomorrow, but today was a good day. I talked to both of the amazing surgeons who operated on my exactly one year ago tomorrow, and I got great news, so tonight I’m going to take the advice of my oncologist and try really hard to clear the craziness out of my mind and help my body actually fall asleep. Ehhhhh… Keep your fingers crossed for me.