And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Most of the time, moments come from something actually happening, something that occurs and it impacts me and so I write about it. But sometimes, like this week, that moment of happiness comes from something that didn’t happen, and I didn’t realize it didn’t happen. But then I did, and wham!
Today is June 15th. Which means we’re coming up on a whole bunch of cancer-aversary dates. In 5 days, on the 20th, it’s the 6th anniversary of the day my mammogram tanked. 7 days after that, on the 27th, is the 6th anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there’s a whole bunch of other dates – the surgery, the 20 hits of radiation, the infection, and so on.
But here’s the thing, and this is a moment that didn’t occur to me until I started writing about this moment – I don’t remember the days of the other anniversaries. I know my surgery was in July sometime near my birthday. July 23? July 24? The radiation started in August…I think.
And that’s just it. The dates of the surgery and the radiation have faded into oblivion. I don’t remember them. They are no longer circled in red in the calendar within my brain. The other two – the mammogram and the diagnosis – well, I have hope that they’ll fade too.
But today, I had to go in to have my blood drawn before my annual physical tomorrow. This was one of those fasting blood draws, where you’re not supposed to eat or drink anything for twelve hours before they stick you. I was running in to the clinic as soon as I was done with morning clients, so I figured I’d be there at noon. So from midnight on, I abstained.
Ever notice how when you know you can’t eat, you suddenly want to eat? I watched the clock last night and carefully managed to have my last bite at 11:55. And then I wanted to have more. I even dreamt about eating last night!
And then here’s the other thing, the thing that made me realize my Moment – eventually. The awareness of it took a bit. But this whole event was just annoying. The fasting. The not being able to have breakfast this morning. Having to get in the car and drive to the clinic and wait in a waiting room to be called back. The usual jovial small talk with the blood-taker. The usual discussion of how my veins “roll” and the usual jab here, jab there, fail, fail, got it. And tomorrow, having to go through something similar to have my physical.
But that’s just it. I was ANNOYED. I wasn’t SCARED.
The whole breast cancer journey started for me in 2017 when I had a physical with my doctor, the same one I have now. I went in for bloodwork. I saw him the next day. He found nothing unusual, including the breast exam. But then, ten days later, the mammogram tanked, and for a while there, so did my life.
Today. Bloodwork. Tomorrow, physical. Exact same place, exact same doctor, exact same path as 2017. Even the exact same month.
For these first six years, the routine of that brought me great fear and stress and worry and flashbacks. My poor doctor – he knows this has caused me anxiety. A few months ago, when I was ill with what was first thought to be strep and then mono, there was a growth of some sort on my right tonsil. He sent me to see an ENT, and he told me that the ENT would poke the growth with a needle (YIKES) and if it was soft, she would drain it, and if it was hard, there might be surgery to remove it (more YIKES). And I immediately said, “Could it be cancer?” My doctor took my face into his hands and said, “No, Kathie. It’s not cancer.” And of course, I didn’t believe him, because of seeing him right before the breast cancer was diagnosed and he didn’t detect anything then. I was a wreck until I saw the ENT – by which time the growth resolved itself. It was an infection, it essentially popped, and it was gone.
What people who haven’t experienced cancer don’t know is that it doesn’t end in your mind with the day you’re told you’re cancer free. For a while, everything becomes cancer. That headache? Brain cancer. Sore throat? Throat cancer. That sore stomach? Stomach cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer. I’ve met so many women who have dealt with breast cancer, and people who have dealt with other cancers, and this aftermath fear is common in all of us. For a while.
And when that routine starts up again, the fear starts up again. Before you even know if you have any reason to be fearful.
But today, I was only annoyed. It wasn’t until I walked out of the clinic, got in my car (warm enough to drive the convertible today!), and sighed at the thought of having to return tomorrow, that I realized.
No fear. None.
Now will there be no fear when I have my mammogram in September? When I have a visit with my oncologist in February? I doubt it. I don’t know that I will ever be able to face those sorts of appointments with calm and confidence.
But the lack of fear today shows that I am steadily moving away. Cancer no longer infiltrates my entire life.
That realization made me smile all the way home. I’ll take it.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.