Cut Loose

When I was going through treatments I went in weekly to have my blood drawn. They were checking my white blood cell count constantly. After chemo was finished, I still went in regularly to get my blood drawn.

Weekly.

Bi-weekly.

Monthly.

Every three months.

Every six months.

Once a year.

Once a year with my mammogram.

Each time the doctor told me I didn’t have to come back for longer period of time, I should have felt joy.

I didn’t.

I should have felt relief that I was healed.

I didn’t.

Was I cured?

Do you really ever say you are cured of cancer? There is no cure, so what do you say?

I don’t know.

Every time the distance between appointments was lengthened, I was scared.

What if it came back?

What if they thought they got it all but they didn’t and if I came back in three months it might be too late.

What if the next time they drew blood

the next time I had a mammogram

the next time I saw the doctor

What if …

I thought about the “what if’s” frequently during treatment and the first few years after. I went to see my oncologist for my yearly check-up last year and he told me he could cut me loose. I didn’t need to see him anymore. My BRAC genetic test for breast cancer was negative. The results of my oncotype test showed less than a 1% chance of recurrence. He felt comfortable not seeing me anymore.

I sat.

I didn’t breathe.

I didn’t blink.

I felt sick at my stomach.

It was irrational but I felt the same fear I felt when I was initially diagnosed.

He watched as I processed what he told me.

I didn’t speak. I experience fear each year when I go to see my oncologist but the visit had become my security blanket. Dr. Davidson had my back.

Cancer had been a part of my life since November 13, 2006. It will always be a part of me. Cancer will not define who I am but cancer changed me. It is hard for me to not look for the positives in all situations. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did not look for positives. As I moved through treatment, I had to be positive.

I looked at Dr. Davidson.

I am positive my cancer is gone. I was also positive I was not ready to be set free.

He smiled at me and said he would see me in a year.
I had breast cancer.

I don’t have it now.

Maybe next year, I’ll be ready to be cut loose.

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Scars

I have scars. The scars I have on my body that people can see (or could see if I showed them) don’t’ really bother me much. I once thought they would. I once worried that I would be ugly with some of my scars. My surface scars represent someone who has experienced life; the good and the bad.

I have a scar on my knee from falling off my favorite pony, Buttermilk. When I see this scar I think of her. On my other knee I have a scar from college when I worked at UPS loading packages. Yep, little ‘ol me loaded UPS trucks. We all have scars on our knees.

There is a scar on my left wrist from tendinitis surgery. When my ex-husband was gone to Egypt for 6 months, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to do 150 men’s pushups each night. Guess what? Not such a good idea. This scar helps me to remember my body has its limits and if I push those limits my body just might say no. I have a small scar under my thumb. Cutting peaches one day, I sliced my thumb open – this scar reminds me to pay attention to detail.

All of my scars I have mentioned so far are things that can happen to anyone. We all have them. They are a part of living your life.

I have three scars from breast cancer. There is one on the upper right side of my chest. This is where the surgeon inserted the venous port – the place where the chemotherapy would enter my body. I have another scar on the inside, cleavage area, of my left breast. This is where the surgeon took out the cancer that threatened me. Under my left arm, I have a scar where they biopsied a lymph node to make sure my cancer hadn’t spread to other parts of my body. All of my cancer scars are ugly but I don’t mind them. They are a reminder to me that I can face something terrible and be ok. They remind me of how strong I am. They remind me of the loving prayers that came my way from so many people. They remind me that I am alive.

The scars I have that no one sees are the scars that have given me the most pain. These are the mental scars that represent loss of trust, disillusionment, a callused heart and despair amongst many other emotions. Those scars are there because my ex-husband treated me like I had no value. Those scars are there because I allowed myself to be treated poorly. Those scars are there because I was taken advantage of. Some of those scars I caused all by myself. My poor judgment left me with scars that threaten to never heal. Those are the scars that trouble me the most. It is expected that others will cause us pain; that too is part of life.

Scars I bear because of choices I made or did not make – those are the scars I feel everyday. Those are the scars that threaten to tear me apart. Those scars make me question myself. I don’t want any more scars like those so I micro-manage my emotions. I work hard to keep myself from being hurt.

I hope one day to be free of this fear. I hope one day to be able to trust fully. I hope one day to be able to love with my whole heart. I know that day will be the day the scars on the inside of me will be healed.