What was lurking at the edges of my brain when I woke up today? Fear. Oh, yeah. I am going to get another three-month full body skin check this morning as a follow-up from my melanoma almost two years ago. This is the melanoma version of scanxiety. I get it.
I have a faint feeling of nausea. There is a lump of fear and stress in the middle of my chest. I can’t pretend to be happy this morning. I wonder if any moles will need biopsies and if I will have those results before we go out of town at the end of the week.
I don’t just have to imagine those out-of-town phone calls with bad news. I have gotten them. The news so far has not been about new melanoma but there have been things that are serious enough that the doctor wants to do more surgery in various areas to remove more — for the sake of “better” margins — once I get home. More scars and dents. Yuck. Still, that is part of my life and I am still here.
As I fold laundry, I can hear my wise friend’s voice in my head telling me to be kind to myself this morning or this week. I sigh. What would that look like? The people in my life still need care. The dogs still need to go out. Life goes on even though my cancer worry brain has been activated by my pending appointment. It is supposed to be activated. What rational human wouldn’t be concerned at the prospect of a follow-up visit for cancer?
What do I tell myself? Trust in God. This is part of the process of life. You will get through it. I pull myself forward and I try not to beat myself up for feeling the way I feel. I am allowed. Yes, I am allowed. As long as the big "C" is in my face today, I'll use part of my day to make my spring mammogram and oncologist follow-up appointments.As I work on emails, I respond to one of the friends we will be traveling with this weekend. A breast cancer survivor, like me, I know she gets it and I ask for a prayer for my appointment later this morning. Feeling less alone and grateful for her friendship, I pull myself forward. Later, I discover she had a group of women that she met with that night pray for me, too.
Oh, no. The dermatologist decided to biopsy three moles that were suspicious this morning. Now I am back to the waiting game and wound care. I believe it is important to not always focus on the cancer fear and to live in the moment. At the same time, as a cancer survivor, that can be more difficult while waiting for current test results. Is my body trying to kill me again, or is everything OK?
I am sorry if that sounds snarky. I have faith and I am worried. I remember that my oncology therapist says it is OK and healthy to hold two conflicting emotions in the same space. I take a breath.
In the evening, I am weary of pulling myself forward and I share my worries with my husband. Feeling less alone now, we work on using distraction to help me — relaxing, a tasty snack and watching episodes of a television series we are slowing working our way through together. The day is over, finally. Not one of my better ones, but I got through it. How do you cope?
I haven't learned to cope yet, fear always takes over.You described my day to a tee. I'm angry right now and hate this journey and mourn the loss of "me" and my life before this. I feel like my body is turning against me, another surgery & a huge scar added to it. I'm on Opdivo, praying that it will keep away any cancer cells that may be lurking somewhere!!!! I was on the combo of Yervoy and Opdivo previously. Just at a loss right now, too much to take in, besides going through this, I'm dealing with a broken shoulder/elbow of 2 months ago, right before the surgery on my leg.....adding 2 more scars and 2 plates. I have faith and I am worried too.
You ARE getting through and coping. Sadness and anger make sense some days and other happier emotions will come back gradually more and more into your life too. Hang in there and do be kind and gentle to yourself. Communicate to your doctors and spiritual leaders what is happening and how you are feeling. Sending prayers and hugs.
I read your article the day before my 3 mo CT scan. It is my 5th quarterly scan since I got the dreaded Stave IV metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. I was first diagnosed at age 48. I was never afraid then, just angry that my life was interrupted. I past the 5 year mark, then the 10 and by then I hardly thought about it anymore. Then in 2011 during my routine mammo a "new" tumor was found. New occurrence, reoccurance, didn't much matter to me. I was, once again angry and anxious to get it all over with and get back to my life. Done. And then 21/2 years later here I am.
Now I am afraid. I told myself, after I passed the first year mark, that I was going to cope better. I was going to get on with my life, accept the uncertainty........blah, blah, blah. I was so anxious last evening I thought I was going to throw up. I had blisters on the inside of my mouth from biting my cheek and the dreaded mouth sores came back. Today I had the scan and tonight I'm better. I don't hear the results until next week and I'm sure by this time next week I'll feel like throwing up again. I know now that the fear and the dread will never go away but I'll keep trying because what other choice do I have. What other choice do any of us have? Thank you for your blog. It often reminds me that I'm not the only one who struggles and that I'm not alone.