You learn fairly quickly when you are diagnosed with cancer that there is a whole world you knew nothing about - a world you never wanted to learn anything about with its own terminology, procedures and treatments.
You recognize quickly that when you used to go to a doctor, you would maybe get an antibiotic or some other treatment option that would make you feel basically instantly better. Not so with entering the world of cancer treatment.
My doctors are wonderful and caring but I do know of some people that feel as though their doctors in cancer town and the cure are in some ways worse than the disease. I do remember sitting with my husband before my 3rd chemotherapy (AC - red devil) and saying, "I felt better with the cancer in my body than I do now."
It is true - the cancer was just sitting there, not causing any symptoms. In fact, I was the busiest I had been in years with my first full time job in 8 years and handling everything at home and beyond. Yet, cancer was not welcome in my body so I persevered with the treatments.
My surgeon is a doll - his role was complex but at the same time kind of "cut and dry" (pun intended) - he was able to go in, see all of the cancer and remove it. End of story. There are no "what ifs" for him - it is done to the best of his ability, he is confident and in fact after the surgery, he phoned my husband in the waiting room and said in effect, "I have removed all of the cancer, it is all gone."
My follow up with the surgeon was also one of positives - all about how the surgery was successful, how wonderfully I was healing (really, I am lucky - after surgery I never thought I would look "normal" again - it is definitely a new "normal" but it is okay to me) and to set up my appointment with the oncology department.
This is where things change - this is where you would hear the ominous music if this were a movie. The surgeon knows this is what it is - I went in and removed it. The oncologist sees everything else AFTER surgery and her tools are limited to medications and concoctions that flow through the bloodstream and are not as precise as scalpel and anesthesia.
My first oncology meeting seemed to be a hard sell to get me to agree to do the chemotherapy while I was ready and willing to do it that DAY if I could. It was a more grounding meeting discussing all of the potential side effects even the ones clocking in at less than 1%. It was sobering after the "success" of the surgery but I kept trying to think positive. I had tons of help and my wonderful guru's advice on how to survive treatment (read about it here tricks-for-treatment.html).
My husband asked the oncologist to help me calm down and explain to me what could happen and my oncologist (bless her, she meant well) began talking about (paraphrased) "..well either the cure works or you wind up with stage 4 and that cannot be cured."
That was not the pep talk he was hoping for from the doctor. But this is it, you learn real quick in the world of cancer that there are no "definites". And you also realize that your whole life you have been duped into thinking anything could be a definite. You have to believe you will be cured, you have to have faith you will be cured and yet, you still might not be cured.
The idea is though that this is life - it is not always fair, you do not have guarantees and all you can do is stay positive and focused on what you can do/control, which is not as much as you thought you could control before cancer diagnosis.
This is oddly freeing, you know you can only do so much so you stop trying to control the world with your mind. You just accept this is where you are and how to maintain your life becomes most important.
Chemotherapy and Radiation are extra layers to make sure that the surgeon's precision at getting all of the cancer out is solidified. There is always the possibility that a cell or more escaped and moved elsewhere in your body. My petscan was something that gave us some level of confidence that the cancer had stayed localized to the breast area but the fact that it had gotten into some of my lymph nodes meant it was time to layer on the treatments.
And layer them we did. Now we just wait. But I prefer to do what my oncologist told me to do. She said to just forget all of this has even happened unless you have to deal with it again. So that is what I am doing - believe it or not - even though I write about it I am exorcising it from my brain to the keyboard. Making room for the memories I am making and the new life plan I am following - less of a plan and more of a balance, of getting to be me, Lisa and not letting fear control me. I am me, I am here and that is all that matters for now.
The Time Between Is, INC is a 501(c)(3) corporation - help us reach our goals of launching #balanceaftercancer
Search the blog here: