A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Will Never Be Free of Cancer

In one year, five months and three days, I will have been cancer-free for five years. Five years is supposed to be a significant milestone for breast cancer survivors. It's an indication that your chances are good, that you might have had your narrow escape, that you can be hopeful for a long and healthy life.

Reaching this milestone will certainly be cause to celebrate, but I am not fooling myself into believing that I will never have to worry about cancer again. I once thought my health would never fail me, at least not until I was old and grey. I was mistaken. Now, my mind will never be free from worry that it will come back. I will never be able to have another checkup without the sleeplessness the night before.

I've been up since 3 a.m. There's a routine checkup scheduled with the radiation oncologist today. I'm not even supposed to be having this appointment. I was told I don't need these particular appointments anymore, but somebody forgot to cancel it, and it was easier to agree to attend than convince their office otherwise. Besides, I wasn't all that thrilled to hear that the frequency of my checkups is being reduced to twice a year. Attending these appointments is reassuring to me. It makes me feel as if someone is looking out for me.

I don't trust myself anymore. The tissue is damaged from radiation and surgery. There are lumps and bumps that they assure me are normal consequences of the treatment, but how can I tell the difference? When I self-examine, I can't tell what's supposed to be there and what's not. What if I'm passing off something deadly as scar tissue from the surgery?

No, I will never be free. Cancer has touched my life, and I can never go back.
I've not spoken too much of this before, for reasons unknown to me. I think during treatment, it was all I could think about, so when it was finished I was looking forward to getting back to normal. I didn't want cancer to take over, but now I realise that it is part of me. It is part of my history, and I hope it stays that way, in the past, but it is what has made me stronger or perhaps, more accurately, it's made me realise that I am strong.


  1. Shelly, my husband Pete was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in 2009. He is fine now, but as you say, once you've been touched by the disease, there is no going back. If Pete feels sick, or has pain, our immediate thought is ... what if?
    But really all we can do is make sure he has his regular check-ups and count our blessings everytime the test results come back negative.

  2. Thank you for sharing your fears, and I'm sorry you will never be free from the torment. My Aunt is in remission from breast cancer too (though under a year) and I know it's been so hard for her as well. She's in her late 80's though, so she doesn't have a busy family to look after, though I doubt that makes it any easier for her to deal with. I hope your results stay positive and good luck for your appointment tomorrow.

  3. Thanks for your kind words. I think that no matter the age, a big part of it is the thought of it being such a horrible way to go. I hope your aunt continues to be healthy and that you have plenty of time with her in the years to come.

  4. I hope your appointment went well.  I understand the part about reassuring yourself.  I can't imagine the nervousness associated with lumps vs. scar tissue.  All the best to you...

  5. I hope everything went well Shelly. I know it must be incredible hard to talk about, but your words will inspire others to battle on.

  6. That must be so tough. I am already a worrier about it having watched friends suffer, and that is hard enough. Stay strong if you can


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