Not today, Cancer!

The last week has definitely been one for the books. My anxiety was on the rise with a PET scan on the horizon, along with the usual bloodwork and monthly check in. One phone call from my doctor threw a giant wrench in my schedule that ended with me getting a PET scan at 6pm on Monday night. I thought there was a chance my doctor would call the following day with results but I wasn’t sure. I told myself that this time I would not frantically check the portal, which I did anyway. When my phone rang, I got the best news a cancer patient in my situation can ask for. No evidence of active disease. This is the holy grail of scan results, what people in my situation dream about. And I got there. I’m almost a year into my diagnosis and I’m still on my first line of treatment and it is continuing to work. Sure, my blood markers ticked up again, but my oncologist told me she could not care less about my markers when she has the gold standard of a PET scan in front of her.

Physically, I feel good. My limp is barely noticeable, I’m clocking in regular exercise, I’m eating well, and doing all the things to support my body in treatment. But it is hard to shake off the feeling of waiting for another shoe to drop. That is the mark of someone with a chronic illness, particularly one that cannot be cured but only managed. You can get great, even excellent, health news and there is a barely discernible asterisk after it. I’m still learning to live with that asterisk, and while a year may feel like a lifetime, it is still just a year. I barely had time to adjust to being a cancer survivor when I became a cancer thriver.

On top of all that, COVID has been a near-constant presence in my life during my cancer journey. I finished chemo in December 2019, had my second surgery in February 2020, dusted myself off to return to ‘normal’ life, and then WHAM, COVID hit. And now, we are approaching the second anniversary of lockdown here in NYC. I have managed to avoid getting COVID but my streak of luck is on the line, as I write this.

COVID plus Cancer means I feel like I haven’t exhaled in about three years. I am over the moon over my scan results but can’t help but wonder (sorry, i hate how that excellent transitional phrase is forever associated with Carrie Bradshaw) if there isn’t something wrong with me that I’m not MORE relieved, I’m not MORE overjoyed, I’m not MORE something. I think I’m reacting how most would in my situation but I want to work this year on embracing the good news more fully, learning how to relax and not borrow trouble from the future that may not come my way. Because if I have learned anything from the last few years, I can only control so much.

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Michelle T

Sometimes funny lawyer-writer person battling breast cancer in NYC