I hit another cancer journey milestone this past week: my six-year oncology appointment.
Like my last few appointments, this one felt commonplace and unintimidating…and if the nurse had let me sit down for a couple of minutes after coming into the exam room, my blood pressure would have been lower. As it was, the reading was not that far from normal.
One other thing that was strikingly normal: for the first time in six years, since all the cancer madness began, all my bloodwork, both Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP), was completely normal. Nothing that would suggest a year’s worth of cancer treatment in the past.
This is so curious because for years, nothing felt normal.
Now everything is.
Ironically, it was my oncologist who was experiencing illness and I had to switch my appointment time so that he could get to his doctor.
I was hit by the realization that everything that had felt out-of-control and hopeless six years ago no longer existed. I was the one who had kept the idea of cancer alive in myself. I still defined myself as a cancer survivor because perhaps I needed some way to justify what I considered to be my shortcomings, as in, “I used to be able to do this, but…”.
Returning to the cancer center for this appointment felt like I was visiting a battlefield from a war that I had fought long ago. The echoes of battle cries…just the wind. The clashing weapons and falling bodies…not there anymore. This may sound like such an overly theatrical description, but that’s exactly what it seemed like.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve got the rest of my life figured out. There are still so many unknowns, including an increased chance of cancer recurrence — and I still need to schedule this year’s mammogram, something else that slipped my mind as I was basking in the idea of being “normal”.
But that tortured soul who, on top of all the other stressful things going on in her life, was hit with a cancer diagnosis…she doesn’t exist anymore. If I’m so unfortunate as to have the cancer come back, she won’t be experiencing the aftermath.
I will. And I feel like I’m so much better equipped to handle all that uncertainty than she ever was.
I still call myself a cancer survivor. But it’s only one of a long list of “skills” that I have on my resume.