It's been said that reaching the ten-year mark means you are home free. But are you?
Ellen was a teacher, drug/alcohol counselor and school counselor for 32 years. Always being fairly “unique,” she was diagnosed with a unique form of breast cancer – one tumor followed by two more malignant tumors – in 2007. Ellen and her husband, although native New Yorkers, have lived in Seattle for 41 years. They have two grown children, two grandchildren and two standard poodles.
It’s been 10 years since my diagnosis.
In some ways, it feels like yesterday. But it also feels like it was a lifetime ago.
First, there was call number one after my ultrasound. I was told about my “infiltrating ductal carcinoma.” I was driving when I received the call. No office visit. No face-to-face. Driving. And then, I just drove home as if my world was the same. Nothing about my world was the same.
Two weeks later, after an MRI, I received call number two. Thankfully, I was home. This time the news was that two additional “highly suspicious regions” were detected. Highly suspicious. Couldn’t be good. Yet, they were just suspicious, right? Not definite.
Next was the barrage of doctors’ appointments and treatment options. The cancer “journey” had begun. I’ve never been sure why we call it a journey. I suppose since a journey is defined as traveling from one place to another, it is a journey of sorts. Patients travel from the land of wellness to the land of sickness. I’d rather go on a trip.
It’s been said that if you pass the five- and then 10-year mark, you are less likely to have a recurrence. It may be less likely, but it can still happen, of course.
Every day I am reminded of cancer. A double mastectomy is a constant reminder, but people tell me to not think about it. It’s over. Those people never had cancer.
People tell me cancer can happen to anyone and I’m no more likely to have it happen again as they are. Really?
It’s as if there are two camps – those of us who have had cancer, and those who haven’t. No matter how loving and empathetic people may be, if they have not gone through cancer treatment, it’s impossible to put yourself in our shoes and to wake up one day and know a foreign toxic body is out to get you. It happened once, it can happen again. That is simply the way it is.
Cancer no longer defines me. But, cancer will always be a part of me.
I celebrate 10 years. I celebrate friends and loved ones who have had cancer as they reach personal milestones, and remain cancer free.