It feels like it wasn’t all that long ago that I had my five-year 3-D mammogram…and here I am with my six-year scan.
I’m writing this prior to the scan and will follow up with the results at the end of this post, but I find it useful to write while I am still experiencing the little uncertainties that come with scans. Like a Schroedinger’s-esque situation, I am both a cancer survivor and a cancer patient right now, since no matter how small a chance that another tumor will be found in my breast, survivor and patient are my only two possible modes of existence.
For my own sake, I try to release all expectations at this time. I don’t want to relax and tell myself that I’m sure that the scan will be clear, because the drop down from that back into “cancer patient” state would be too fast and steep, so I breath deeply and anticipate nothing. But that’s hard to maintain.
At the same time, just a few weeks after seeing my oncologist who skillfully performed a clinical breast exam and found nothing, it’s very unlikely that a mammogram would bring up anything life-changing for me at this time. In fact, if anything were found, it would be a tumor in its nascent stages that would be much easier to treat than the one I had in 2017. Or so I tell myself.
To be frank, it’s not locating another tumor in the breast that constitutes the scariest scary outcome. No, it’s the not finding a tumor in some other part of the body — perhaps a lone sleeper cell that evaded chemotherapy’s effects and circulated through my body before grabbing onto a vital organ and silently beginning to grow.
That’s the real bad news…but it would not be the news I’d get today.
This brings me back to that situation that all cancer survivors face: accepting that there are no guarantees.
For the next hours before my mammogram I will focus on work, think of nothing to do with cancer and take deep conscious breaths. As I sit in the waiting room I will gently distract myself, submit to the squishing of the scan and hang in the stillness of the present moment until I get my response…and hopefully go on for another year. Maybe.
So, I’m back now with the outcome that I was both hoping for and (to be honest) expected: All clear for one more year!
And even though I always play it cool before and during the scan, the difference in my state is really noticible after I get the thumbs-up sign. Those minutes of sitting and waiting for my results [note: as a cancer survivor, I get my answer on the spot, which I really appreciate] are a little uncomfortable — I float, trying to focus on my breathing. But to this day, even when I’m “not expecting bad news”, I cannot shake that tickle of unease.
And that’s just another part of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Still working on it…