The Gift of Forgetting

November 29, 2018

Wouldn't it be nice to forget a cancer diagnosis?

Sometimes I think I'm unrealistic and perhaps living in La La Land. It's been just a little over four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and lately I've been feeling like I'm home free. My five-year cancerversary is just around the corner and reaching that magic number feels almost too good to be true. While I'd like to think I'll make it to my fifth year without a recurrence of cancer, I have to be realistic. The possibility of my cancer returning is very real.

My diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma, a very common form of breast cancer. According to my Oncotype DX score, the cancer was fed at a rate of 99 percent by both estrogen and progesterone. At the time of my initial surgery, it had already traveled outside my breast into my lymph nodes. That meant the breast surgeon had to do additional surgery to try to remove all of the cancer cells from my body.

Only once or twice since being diagnosed have I given thought to the possibility that cancer cells were roaming around in my body. Most recently this thought crossed my mind after taking a hard fall. When the radiologist seemed concerned about a dark shadow on my films and asked me to tell him about my cancer, I got nervous. It's been several weeks since that injury and I've begun to heal, so I feel I dodged a bullet. That shadow must have been something else.

But as the year draws to a close, and medical bills remind me I've finally met this year's deductible, I wonder if I should move my oncology appointment to this year instead of waiting until February of next year. At least I'd have peace of mind sooner instead of later.

Recurrence is a very real possibility, especially with an aggressive cancer fed by more than one hormone. That fact makes me leery of falling into the trap of thinking I'll be home free by reaching the five-year mark. I do my best not to dwell on the possibility of recurrence, but it's hard not to think about it occasionally.

With Christmas just a few more weeks away, I've been thinking about what I'd like to find under the tree. I know what I want, but I just don't know if Santa can deliver. The gift I'd most like to find under the tree is the gift of forgetting. I'd like to forget I ever had cancer and if I can't have that gift, I'd like to be given the ability to say I used to have cancer instead of I had cancer. It seems so much more in the distant past.

Living in La La Land isn't all bad. Sometimes it’s nice to be out of touch with reality. Living in a dreamlike state is so much easier than facing the painful reality that cancer doesn't always stay away once surgery has been performed.


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