In September 2014, I had my 10th session of CT Scans. After that, for the first time in my 3 years of dealing with post-cancer scans and appointments, I was going to endure an entire year without someone officially imaging my body and giving me an “all clear.” Now that I knew other young adult cancer survivors, I knew that I’d had more scans than others with very similar diagnoses. In each case, others’ diagnoses had come later than mine. Late enough that the data from my clinical trial may have been influencing how cancer patients with my Hodgkins Lymphoma diagnosis were scanned and therefore exposed to radiation. Still several months later, the remaining 6 months in front of me with no appointments or official declarations of “still cancer free!” were starting to freak me out.
I felt the lumps everywhere. All of a sudden, I realized that I could feel them. My neck felt questionable and in my groin, I could feel lumps that I hadn’t remembered feeling before. Usually, I noticed them quickly as I was getting dressed, and shoved the idea to the back of my mind. I’d ponder it while pacing back and forth across a pool deck, more focused on my swimmers in the water than the lumps in my body. One evening, taking a hot shower after work, the full weight, the full calamity seeped into my conscious brain. I cried and cried, hot tears mixing with the hot shower water. During the day, with my big girl pants on, having cancer again, experiencing a recurrence, seemed like something I could handle. Alone and naked, I knew I didn’t want to even imagine the consequences of cancer creeping back into my life. The unknowns, the fear of the future, the stress on every relationship in my life, the emotional and physical toll on my body…the casualties lined themselves up and I cried in fear and in anger.
Eventually, September 2015 came, and so did my round of CT scans. Thoughts of recurrence came and went as Brett and I flew back to St. Louis, stayed several days with my dad and little brother, made the early morning drive to the hospital (goofy, dehydrated, and super hungry Mallory in tow…I really am like a different person when I’m not fed), and we checked into the CT waiting room. Following my scans and the typical round of blood work, I met with my oncologist. A few minutes into our discussion, my physician said, “Now, if you’re the kind of person who can forget about these sorts of things, we can just see what we see on the scans next year. Otherwise, the radiologist suggested a follow-up MRI to check out a cluster of cells that is on your liver.” This physician is new to me; my previous oncologist moved to a different hospital recently. He had no idea then, that I am most definitely NOT the type of person who can “forget about these sorts of things.” The follow-up MRI was scheduled, my flight back to California was changed, and we waited.
After a very long week, the results were in and the lump of cells was nothing much to worry about. I flew back to California and life continued on as normal.
Wait, seriously. Don’t believe that hog-wash. Life did NOT go back to normal. Life is never normal again after cancer. That’s the shitty truth and point of the whole experience. Together though, we share our stories, we learn from one another’s experiences, and we learn to move forward. We learn how to live again instead of merely survive and we learn to do so with grace and love and laughter and anger and all of those great human emotions.