My oncology team and I decided that it was OK to decrease the frequency of cancer-related scans, leaving me both relieved and nervous.
At 30 years old, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer. I spent a year at the hospital receiving chemo five days a week for a year and underwent an 18-plus—hour surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor in my right femur.
By the end of the year, I received clear scans and thought I was well on my way to rebuilding my life, only to experience multiple recurrences over the following years. It got so bad that doctors ultimately ran out of answers and shared that my survival rate was less than 10%.
From there, I set out on my own to explore alternative healing methods; I was constantly researching online for answers or at least inspiration, and networking with a wide variety of medical experts. I overhauled my lifestyle and committed to healing my body with everything I had.
Fortunately, my scan results showed improvement over time. Nodules in my lungs stopped spreading and once my surgeon removed them via surgery, they no longer came back. The first few times that scans showed encouraging results, it was such a surreal feeling and I remember crying over the phone after hearing the news.
At that point, it had almost become a habit to expect and brace for worst case scenarios — anything else barely seemed possible. I’d had cancer in my right femur, both lungs multiple times and my left hip. I was a bionic man from a handful of operations. But my efforts appeared to be paying off and by the third or fourth clear scan, I started to gain the slightest sense of confidence. Slowly but surely, my mindset evolved from living in survival mode 24/7 to a place where I could dip my toes in the water of what it might be like to dream again. From there, I eventually started taking baby steps of planning for goals, like moving out of my apartment full of countless cancer triggers or planning a vacation abroad.
Any recent life plans have traditionally been scheduled around scan time. My life has been experienced in three- or six-month blocks, depending on the aggressiveness of monitoring my health. That’s great for acting quickly on any potential danger, but less ideal when you consider the toll taken from such frequent bouts of scanxiety, radiation and overall stress.
As results grew more consistent, I began to weigh the pros and cons of pacing out scans. And when I recently brought this up with my oncology team, I was surprised to hear them agree that yes, I was a unique case and it might make sense to tone down the scan load. Part of me assumed doctors would push to stay as conservative as possible. Or maybe it was just overwhelming to receive such good news.
It took a while to process the significance. I still remember walking out of the hospital in shock back in 2016, after they shared the less than 10% prognosis— and so coming from a place of being told that death was a very real possibility to having doctors acknowledge that I overcame the statistics… I mean, wow. Somebody pinch me.
I’m elated… and also a little nervous. As much as I hate scan time, there’s something to be said about the assurance it provides. Any weird symptoms or pains, you can at least remind yourself that if it was anything that bad it likely would’ve shown up in the results.
Also, there’s a voice in my head that keeps saying, “You made it this far, better not screw up now!” It takes me back to receiving clear scans after chemo and getting my hopes up to return to work and rebuild my life, only to get hit with multiple waves of recurrences. There still remains a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder while I work on trusting the universe.
In the meantime, I find that focusing on what I can control helps me feel empowered. I treat wellness like a full-time job, doing everything I can each day to give me the greatest chance of maintaining good health— clean diet, cancer-fighting supplements, holistic healing regimens, exercise, nature, being around positive, supporting loved ones… All that good stuff.
Cultivating a spirit of gratitude also provides an anchoring effect in the face of worries. It may not make the fear go away entirely, but appreciating what is working can help distract or reframe my perspective. In
In this case, I’ve certainly received amazing news and appear to be heading in the right direction… and for that, I feel incredibly grateful and blessed.
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