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Fears of Recurrence and a Tale of Survival

A six-year breast cancer survivor and three-year melanoma survivor reflects back and offers hope.
PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 02, 2016
Cancer survival is possible. Honestly, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 46 and an unrelated melanoma at 50, I didn’t think I would be alive right now. Recently, four biopsied moles at my six-month full body checkup were not cancer — three of the four weren’t normal, but they weren’t cancer. 

I certainly didn’t think I would be six years free of breast cancer and three years free of a completely unrelated melanoma. Survivorship is worth sharing and celebrating. I hope sharing this gives hope if you are a new cancer survivor. I still get comfort from hearing about people who are further out from diagnosis than me and feel optimistic that I may be one of them.

The fear of recurrence is still there for me, but it truly does get better with time. Life, in both good and bad ways, has moved on and continues to move on since my cancer diagnoses. There is hope and there is still time for many of us to experience life. I wish to encourage fellow survivors to work on their bucket list items. I do.

I have crossed off some big bucket list items—six countries in Europe over the past month after never having been to Europe before. As a two-time cancer survivor, I was grateful, humbled and awed. The distraction that travel provided from cancer worry brain was good, and the world seemed like both a bigger place and a smaller place than I had imagined before this once-in-a-lifetime trip. 

That is not to say I forgot about my breast cancer and melanoma experiences, but I now feel calmer about facing the inevitable that all humans face. I feel like I have been fortunate to see more of the world, and I really had hoped to see even more. My cancers made me more inclined to save, plan, and actually make that trip of a lifetime happen.

The trip involved a lot of walking—a lot. It was not difficult to get a lot more than 10,000 steps per day on my walking tracker. If my traveling partners and I had been less mobile, we could still have seen some really awesome things, but fewer of them. Motivated by cancer, which motivated me to make a bucket list, I came home from the trip wanting to encourage everyone, cancer survivor or not, to travel while they are able to and not to count on being able to travel indefinitely. Make your own bucket list today. 

My trip accomplished several bucket list items and lots of learning experiences. Overall, as a bit of a control freak, I find comfort in realizing, after a trip to Europe, how tiny I really am both in the world and in human history. It is OK. It is good. It is even sort of calming. Perspective is a good thing. Cancer survivors have lots of perspective. I would encourage fellow cancer survivors to use that perspective to your own advantage and work on your bucket list now and enjoy your life. Today, I am here. Today, you are here. There is hope.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
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