I think it’s safe to say that every single cancer patient fears that dreaded word – recurrence. We may not think about it every single moment, of every single day. However, every survivor I have spoken with over these last 2 years admits, “It’s always somewhere in the back of my mind.” In this awful world of cancer, is there really anything more frightening?
Going back to my original diagnosis and the beginning of the “cancer chaos”, I technically remained “cancer free” following my surgery in April 2014. Yet, I then underwent treatment for cancer, obviously in an attempt to remain “cancer free.” I recall asking my radiation oncologist, “So, what do I say? Do I actually have cancer?” She looked at me with a questionable smile and said, “Well, you don’t have a tumor, but you are being treated for cancer. So, there is really no easy answer to that question.” Fair enough.
I HATED it when people said, “Oh that’s great! You’re in remission!” The other comment that made my skin crawl was, “So you’re cured!” Hmmm… not so much. I don’t blame them. People who haven’t lived through this really don’t truly understand. They mean well and only want the best for me. It is frustrating though.
Anyway, 2014 rolled on. MRIs all looked clear. I was back at work. No more treatment. Sure, I was still on anti-seizure meds, but those weren’t going away any time soon. I still had physical therapy, but I was exercising regularly and could do every workout I wanted. Yes, I remained in therapy every so often. Cancer is a true trauma and a little professional help goes a long way. I was heavily involved in charity organizations, which gave me so much strength and purpose. I was meeting so many other amazing survivors. Life was really pretty much back to normal, although we all know it was the “new normal.”
The fear of a recurrence never went away. However, it didn’t dominate my thoughts. There were even moments I didn’t even think about cancer! I almost forgot about it… almost.
So 2014 came to a close and I decided to celebrate the end of the hardest year of my life in the Caribbean with my husband. We sat on the beach, sipping champagne. We ate A-mazing food. We watched the fireworks over the ocean on New Year’s Eve. God, life was good.
We rang in the new year in style, but it was back to reality. And boy, did reality strike like a ton of bricks.
In February 2015, ironically just after my 35th birthday, my MRI began to show an enhancement at the surgical area where the original tumor had been removed. It was extremely small, so my doctors could not absolutely confirm it was indeed a recurrence. We would just have to wait and see.
So there it was – that dreaded word. My biggest fear staring me in the face. Yet, I didn’t even have enough information at that point to even confirm, yes, the tumor is back. I would be stuck in limbo for the next few months until my next MRI. The hope was that the enhancement would remain stable, indicating that it was likely just a side effect of the radiation. However, if it increased, then, well, it was likely it was a recurrence.
Simply by reading the title of this post and it’s category, the recurrence was eventually confirmed.. but I’ll get there.