Does cancer ever really leave you? It has been eight years since I rang that bell. Eight wonderful years and I have moved away from scouring nutritional advice to stave off cancer. Done are the days when I would only drink green smoothies and avoid sugar at all costs.
I am one of the lucky ones, I have not had a reoccurrence. I am monitored twice yearly with scans and mammograms. With each visit I feel my anxiety well up like a ferocious beast that is out of control. The click, click, click of the MRI lights a fire in my belly as the adrenaline courses through my veins. I start shaking as nausea takes hold as I slip back into that world when results coming quickly means everything to me and very little to the system.
After a weekend of spreading mulch and tilling the compost pile I began having pain in my armpit. It’s unusual, I have never had pain there before. I began poking around deep into my skin, trying to figure out what was going on. The aching subsided and wrist pain ensued. I figured I was getting carpal tunnel from too much typing. I bought a wrist brace and slept with it, no resolution.
I texted my friend who happens to be a physical therapist when the pain started in my shoulder. She got me in quickly, bulging disc as usual. These things flare up from time to time and sometimes get so out of whack that I cannot fix it on my own. Leaving her office I felt better and went back to work. Sitting at my desk my armpit started radiating pain again. I texted my friend despite being in the middle of the meeting. She dropped everything and ran to the office.
Turns out I irritated my pectoral muscle. But in those moments that she was palpating the monster raged with a vengeance. I went there. What if? All the air was sucked out of my lungs and that familiarity with the fragility of life swept in. She swept in, went to the source and determined I had a strained pectoral muscle. As she walked out my eyes locked with my husband’s. I broke down, “I guess breast cancer never really leaves you.” Followed by, “I have the best friends.”
Whether you are eight days, eight years or lucky enough to be 18 years into your cancer journey, remember that you are not alone. The anxiety that we feel is part of the process. The inability to be that blissfully naïve person you were before walking this road, is okay. Cancer changes you and while you can move beyond the crisis period, but cancer never really leaves you.