I’ve been trying for a while to get back to normal but that normal is pretty much gone forever. That ship sailed and it’s not coming back. I am done with treatment except for taking daily Tamoxifen which inhibits my body from producing estrogen. So why can’t I just snap out of it?
I long for the days when my worries and stress didn’t come from cancer and its lasting physical and mental side effects. I still have numerous aches and pains, probably from the Tamoxifen and some residual soreness from my mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries. I have to admit too that I have lingering chemo fog, which affects my short term memory. Missing turns while driving. Thinking a thought and before that thought is even fully formed in my brain, it has flown the coop. This is actually only the tip of the iceberg. I am afflicted with many of these lingering effects.
When I recovered from meningitis in 2004 within the first year after diagnosis I had pretty much gotten back to normal, albeit with one left totally blind weird wandering eye. The chances of meningitis coming back were very rare. When I was recovering I was frightened because I nearly died, but after a year I felt like I was getting back to normal and there wasn’t a black cloud of doom following me around like I sometimes feel there is now. But I also had a baby to take care of and you moms know that when you have a baby it consumes all your attention. It’s a nice distraction from worrying about yourself.
Flash forward eleven years and I’m diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. I finished chemotherapy and radiation by November that same year. I didn’t have a baby or anything else really to pour my now limited amount of energy into. I had to actually face this new version of me. Mostly I like her because she can be bad-ass. She fights for herself and others. She appreciates so many of the little things now. She doesn’t take life for granted. She’s made positive changes in her life. But she doubts. Doubts her ability to beat cancer. Doubts her ability to put cancer in the back seat. I would say Cancer has at least moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s but it is my hope that it can be moved to the back seat and eventually to like a trailer that will one day be unhitched. A survivor I know added to her FB profile under work history, Works at “beating breast cancer” and I thought fuck yeah-it IS a job! And a full time one at that. So I added that to mine. You see there is no cure for invasive breast cancer. It can be treated but there is no guarantee. While chemotherapy can work wonders, it cannot guarantee a cancer-free future. Neither can radiation. Even a patient who is “100% clinically responsive” cannot be assured that the cancer is gone. Microscopic cells can remain. Nobody can tell who has been cured and who hasn’t because breast cancer can return at any time, be it two or twenty years later. I guess you can say you were cured when you die many years later from something else. When breast cancer returns, it usually shows up somewhere else, i.e. bones, lungs, liver, brain, etc. If this happens it’s not bone cancer or lung cancer. It’s metastatic breast cancer, or as we pink warriors say “bone mets” or “brain mets.” It’s also Stage IV. Since I will never be considered “cured” my oncologist says the term he and his colleagues use is “NED” no evidence of disease. I hope there is no evidence of disease for the rest of my life, which I further hope will be a long time from now, after I’ve found my purpose, after I’ve become a grandmother.