I just read a strong and terribly sad blog post written by a daughter about her mother’s cancer recurring. Recurrence is a fear all cancer patients live with forever. I am eight years cancer free and I still stress out each year when it is time for my visit to the oncologist. I usually go see my oncologist in November each year. In October I become aware again that I am a cancer survivor – how can a breast cancer survivor/patient miss it with all the pink ribbons adorning everything. I remember getting so many items covered with pink ribbons when I was diagnosed. I was even given pink yoga pants. Pink was my least favorite color and my life was quickly accented with pink. October is a hard month for me because of the reminders that are everywhere. November brings stress as I wait to get the results of my tumor markers. I am always glad I go in a week early to get my blood drawn so I can get the results from my oncologist. The week between the blood draw and my appointment is hard. I replay scenarios in my head. I worry. I stress. I pray. After I see my oncologist and get a clean bill of health I only get a short reprieve. My mammogram is usually in December.
I get the reminder in October. I feel the stress in November. The fear arrives in December. It is not normal fear like you feel when you see a scary movie or see a snake or fear rejection, failure or heights… it is a fear that hits you in the pit of your stomach. It is an indescribable fear that cancer patients know well.
When I read the blog post this morning, I could feel this daughters fear. She was mad but the anger was fueled by fear. As I read her post I felt the fear her mother must be feeling at the knowledge that she will probably die of cancer. I understood the anger and I felt the fear. I never like reading or hearing about recurrence. Recurrence shouldn’t happen. Recurrence is always in the back of cancer patient’s minds, even when they have had all the tests that tell them there is a low chance the cancer will return. The chemo, the radiation, the loss of hair, the loss of my belief that I will always be fine, the nausea, the fear for my children – recurrence brings all that back.
I am always surprised at how people seem to want to tell me that they have a loved one whose cancer returned. Hearing that always feels like a bucket of ice water has been poured over me. I don’t believe those that have not had cancer understand what that does to someone that has had cancer.
I cannot think of any words to say to ease the anger and fear this daughter felt for her mother this morning. I am at a loss and that does not happen to me often. I also feel as though I cannot read something so raw and not comment. There is nothing to say to make this daughter feel better. My heart aches for her and for her mother.