Sunday, 25 March 2012

Coping with the Fear of Recurrence

                                                                PAGE 7

Before I write this week I would like to thank all  my international readers from  South Africa, USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Russia and recently the Emirates, who are reading my blog. Your interest inspires me to keep writing and I hope that my survival story will be an inspiration to you or a loved one to be a survivor too.

My words are no longer just being recorded on paper;  I now feel as though I am speaking to YOU!

I am digressing from my follow on blog as planned and want to tell you about something current which transpired this past week and is very relevant to the ongoing survival process.

I have been having pain in my left hip and this pain had been getting progressively worse over the past few months and  it had spread into my lower back.

 Staying in a positive frame of mind as a cancer survivor can leave you in a confusing place at times.

My survival instinct told me to run to the doctor for tests, yet my mind told me to stop being paranoid  and at my age it was normal joint pain. Everyone around me told me to remain positive and said
"Don't worry it's nothing" or came up with a perfectly reasonable explanation.

So I put my fear aside and ignored it!

I had received the "positive" result for my second PET  Scan recently and that meant that I was cancer free for my second year. A huge achievement and I was ECSTATIC.... but weeks later I could not shake this nagging concern.

What was also playing on my mind was that a friend, whom I had met during treatment ( a cancer survivor) had informed me recently , that his cancer had returned. It had spread to his liver from his colon after 2 years and that it had presented as back pain.

Another incident that broke me down emotionally was when my friend called me to say that a friend of hers, a young mother of two, who was struggling with throat cancer had been hospitalised the previous week and had passed away.

I then  knew I had  to know what this pain was and face the outcome.

I was petrified!

My mind was in turmoil!
The pain in my body was telling me that the cancer could be back!
My strength and positive belief was saying there was another simple explanation!
I was actually feeling guilty about wanting a positive outcome and wondering why my result should be positive when others so close to me are dying!

I understand now what is meant by survivor's guilt!

I called my Oncologist and told him about the pain I was experiencing and asked him if there was any chance that the PET Scan could have missed anything. Well... within an hour, I had had an appointment booked for a bone scan in a couple of days time.

The test was CLEAR and I am officially getting older as I have arthritis......What a pleasure to cope with considering the alternative being... Cancer?

I have to be grateful that I am clear.... not question why?.... or feel guilty about it!

It takes 5 years of being Cancer Free to be termed "IN REMISSION" and this is what I am aiming for!

I have a PET Scan once a year and a throat check up or biopsy annually as well. So, effectively I am having a check up every 6 months.

The PET Scan involves a radio-active dye being injected into my blood. I then drink a glucose liquid which carries this dye throughout my bloodstream to all my organs and should any cancer cells exist, they will react with the glucose and show  up on the Scan.

This PET Scan is amazing as it takes 7000 cross section images of  my entire body including all the organs, to detect any sign of cancer.

The throat check up is either done by inserting a camera into my nose and down my throat.. yes! it does feel as weird as it sounds, but you get used to it !

The throat biopsy is done under local anaesthetic where samples are taken from the throat area for analysis.

I live every day with the attitude that I have "SURVIVED CANCER" and that I am "CANCER FREE" and I refuse to allow my life and the decisions I make to be influenced by the fear of that cancer returning.
However, when the annual scans are due....a FEAR emerges out of nowhere, as though a light bulb has just been turned on, and it takes constant filtering of my thoughts to keep it at bay.

 To help me cope with this, Craig (my husband), books my scan appointments and only informs me a day or two prior to the appointment so that I do not have too much time to think about it.

It's the fear of hearing those words again.... "IT'S CANCER"... and the possibility, that I will be back in that moment where my life is catapulted into that abyss of uncertainty.

When I hear the words  "YOU ARE CLEAR"  coming out of the oncologists mouth,  it is the most precious gift as I know I have been given another year of my life.

 I cry like a baby when I leave his rooms and his nurses all think it's hilarious... but I cry with sheer joy as I am so grateful to share another care free year with the people I love!

Next Blog:  Coping with Chemo and Radiation

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