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Would Recent Advancements Make You Revisit Cancer?

Would you go see a genetics counselor again, now that there may be more to test for? Would you get a double mastectomy seven years out?
PUBLISHED September 27, 2017
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.
Wow, time really does move faster as you get older, especially as a cancer survivor. I am seven years out from my breast cancer diagnosis with a negative (no cancer) 3D mammogram under my belt. For the most part, I am happy and grateful. I remember when I was going through chemotherapy, I was so frightened and scared that I just wanted to magically transport myself ahead somewhere around five years to ten years away from cancer. It was sad that I wanted to wish so much of my life away to get away from cancer. Now life has changed and cancer treatments have changed, too.

My mom passed away this year from breast cancer—lobular. My breast cancer seven years ago was ductal. Advances have been made in genetic testing. Two years ago, I completed my five-year treatment with anastrozole. My oncologist thinks it would be wise to go back to see a genetic counselor again and she also tells me she wouldn’t blame me, given family history and my history, if I chose a double mastectomy today!

Oh, and then three years ago, there was my melanoma diagnosis on my shoulder on the opposite side from my breast cancer. More worry. More stress. I recently was able to go down to full-body skin checks every six months instead of every three months. My skin is a tapestry of surgeries and biopsies.

Though I am several years out from both cancers, I don’t exactly feel done with cancer. Though I am not a doctor, I feel like I like I know more medical terminology than I want to know. I also had hoped the passage of time would have given me permission to worry less by now.

So, what am I supposed to feel or do? There are no “shoulds” or “oughts” with feelings. Still, how do I feel? I feel confused, slightly worried, still pursued by cancer and grateful. I don’t want to spend my time focusing excessively on the negative, but I don’t get to put my head back in the sand, either.

Would you go see a genetics counselor again, now that there may be more to test for? Would you get a double mastectomy seven years out?

Everyone is different and everyone gets to make his or her own choices. I will probably go see the genetics counselor again. I will probably make a decision, one way or the other, about the double mastectomy based on what I learn there. Maybe then I can put to bed some of the lingering cancer worry for a few more years.

I get that we each have limited time, but cancer survivors get to be more aware of their own mortality. Hopefully we waste time less because of this. I created a bucket list for myself that helps me. I wrote down and crossed off things I had already done and I added more. In the last several years, I have crossed off quite a bit and added a few more items. I crossed off travel to Europe and zip lining and luge riding! I also swam with dolphins, rode a hot air balloon and did an ocean scuba dive. Life is good and there is worry. Sometimes the balancing act feels good and sometimes it is worrisome. Since cancer, life events rock my boat more than I wish they did. I try to be a stronger and more aware human being than before cancer. Sometimes I lapse. I try to appreciate and use time wisely. Is it wise or foolish to consider a double mastectomy at this point? What do you think?
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