The other night I had an intense dream about a conversation with a cancer psychologist; who probed my beliefs about cancer potentially reoccurring.
I have to admit that I woke up somewhat disturbed. What did I really believe about cancer and the possibility it would reoccur?
It's been a good two years since I finished 9 months of treatment. Each month brings more life post breast cancer. Yet every three months I go in for my quarterly check up filled with blood tests, my visit to the oncologist is often the same set of questions, review and physical check in. It's also generally filled with an hour plus wait in the oncology department where I see many, although I only really notice the women, in various stages of pretreatment, during treatment and post treatment. This keeps my own cancer memories fresh.
My heart is filled with compassion for those I can tell have been recently diagnosed. You can always tell because there is extra hand holding, nervous glances towards others, especially the bald heads, and sometimes consoling of one women by multiple others. They are just being exposed to the new language, the language of cancer, oncologists, treatment, chemo, radiation, support, education, etc.
Because of the conversations with my father when he was diagnosed as terminal, I notice significantly older people in wheel chairs that appear to be having difficulty and wonder if the harshness of treatment is really worth it – this is a question only they can answer.
As I sit and wait post blood draw (only 3 vials this time – hurray!) I notice who appears to be similar to me – one or more years out and appearing to be healthy.
Filled with Wonder
I wonder how many women now choose to have short hair and how many are simply in the growing it out stage?
I wonder if they think of cancer as being behind them and their oncology visit is simply an inconvenience to their day.
I wonder if they are grateful and relieved to know that the blood tests show they are healthy.
I wonder if prior to their quarterly of bi-annual visit they become slightly agitated as I often find myself with their husband or partner pointing out "you're a bit more snappy this week?"
I wonder if they think about reoccurrence.
I wonder if they belief they are healthy and breast cancer was a one year or so blip in their life?
I wonder if they have somehow changed at the core of their being due to cancer.
I wonder how they respond each time someone says, you look great, how are you feeling? With that look of please tell me all is alright in your life.
I wonder how many friends and acquaintances have referred other newly diagnosed women to them for a conversation – such as I have done.
I wonder if their kids still ask them if they will die?
I wonder how many of these women faced breast cancer the way I faced it – head on, on a mission and with a sense of humor.
I wonder how many have slipped back to the old ways or if they still juice or have changed their way of eating to be more healthy?
I wonder how many choose an integrated approach incorporating supplements and naturopathic care in their post treatment life.
I wonder how many have chosen to be a part of a study so that others may benefit.
I wonder how many still have many questions and thoughts about cancer.
I wonder how many think, "why me?"
I wonder a lot.
Being Filled With Gratitude
I am filled with gratitude for what I have learned about who I am as a person – not just due to cancer, but because of this experience.
I am grateful for my sense of humor and human-ness.
I am grateful to the naturopathic oncologist that continues to answer my questions and make suggestions.
I am grateful for each woman that calls me in the desperation of newly diagnosed breast cancer.
I am grateful for the women who listened.
I am grateful for my community that supported me
I am grateful that my relationship with my spouse continues to grow strong in an ever changing world.
I am grateful to my clients that supported me then and support me know.
I am grateful I get agitated and snappy – as it's a reminder of all I do have.
I am grateful that I feel terrific and the YMCA offers programs for women like me with a shared experience of cancer to work out together, to sweat, lift weights and simply be human together.
I am grateful that my treatment is 2 years out and gaining one more month each month.
Some of My Favorite and Milestone Breast Cancer Stories
Although there are many more blog posts, the ones I selected below reflect the overall journey filled with tears, insight, humor, fear, and courage. This is part of the journey you face with cancer – each story is unique.
If you're reading this far, you're either a friend (and thanks) or you've probably been diagnosed or like me – you are still drawn to stories of women similar to you. Thanks for stopping by. Do leave a comment if you'd like, or email me if you're more of the private type. Due to unfortunate people taking email addresses –if you leave a comment that says "I'd like to talk" I receive a copy of your email and will connect.
The best to you, Michele