Sunday, June 22, 2014

The road

So, it's been awhile. I've said it before, I'll say it again. A cancer blog when you don't have cancer becomes a bit of a challenge to maintain. A challenge for which I am deeply grateful.

I've just completed my latest round of "is Laura still in remission?" testing wherein my normal cancer stress moves from a 6-7 to an 11. This round was particularly bad.

I had a mammogram on the 23rd of April. It was a 6 month follow up because I had some calcifications and they wanted to check in on them sooner than the year. That was on a Wednesday. On Monday I got a call to schedule a biopsy. No context. No warning. Just a cheerful man who had no idea why.  I called my oncologist's nurse and left a message asking for more information. Thankfully she returned my call within the day and said there wasn't a lump, I just had a patch at my original cancer site that was hard to see. The biopsy was exploratory and fairly routine. It might be cancer, it might be scar tissue, it might be just a bad film. Adventure! The great unknown!

Her call brought me considerable comfort but lingering in the back of my mind was the thought of "what if." I've always been more afraid of metastasis than I have been of recurrence. Recurrence, while a pain, is still within the realm of treatable. Once cancer gets out of your boob though, doctors stop talking about curing your disease and start talking about managing it. So this seemed a better option, but not by a whole lot.

I started worrying about having to do chemo again. I've said all along it isn't awful, but when faced with a repeat course my mind got a lot more clear about what it had been like. The mind has a nice way of glossing over the pain of your past. I don't have fond memories of cancer treatment, but I don't think of that time and feel immediately awful either. I've mostly forgotten what it was like in any real sense. The worrying brought it back.

I arrived at the biopsy to find that, in my particular case, an error had been made. The radiologist felt a magnified mammogram was in order, and that upon its evaluation, a decision would be made about a biopsy. I won't get into the details, but 40 minutes later after another round of boob-pinching, I sat across from a radiologist who told me that both he and another doctor had reviewed the films and were both of the opinion that the calcifications were in line with surgical scarring and nothing to be concerned about. I asked just how confident they were, to which he replied "very confident," a degree that is unusual in the cancer world.

So all my worrying had been for nothing. As it has been since the day of my diagnosis. Since that day I've gotten nothing but routine, expected or good news. And yet, the worry persists. In this case, I'm willing to pass on some of the blame to a medical system that is rather cavalier when dealing with patients for whom a cancer recurrence is not an everyday occurrence but still, there is a lesson here. One I will continue to be challenged to learn and, I suspect, will fail to learn well in the near future.

Worry is not helpful. So far, not only has it been tiring to live with, it's also been unnecessary. Worry does not change the future, it only poisons the present. If only I could drill that belief into my thick skull. In the meantime, I will have to settle for the meadow of relative calm in which I currently find myself and hope that with each piece of good news I get following a test or a scare, I will find it easier to believe that this really might all turn out in my favour.