next weekend i will be celebrating my 5 year cancerversary. that means that 5 years ago i got the dreaded call from the lab that said, "you have cancer." and from that moment on, i became a survivor.
my first cancerversary was probably the most meaningful. it meant that i survived my year of treatment and hell. i came out from the other side. my hair was beginning to grow back. i could finally taste foods again. i had energy. and i was full of life.
every cancerversary since then has been wonderful. but the most anticipated for me has been number 5. that's when you really start to beat the odds. many statistics are based on 5 year survival rates. i remember being in my oncologists office way back when. she was reviewing my chemo options. she jotted notes on the back of the "welcome to chemotherapy" pamphlet. i remember staring at two numbers. 50 and 5. i had a 50% chance at 5 year survival. those were my odds without fighting. if i did chemo, radiation, and tamoxifen, my survival odds were greatly increased. so, i fought.
and here i am now about to turn 5. i should be happy. but something in the back of my brain says, "don't be too cocky. don't count your chickens before they hatch. don't jinx anything." i knew my annual mammogram was coming up this month. and the old "what if" kept invading my brain. the anticipation of the other shoe falling.
this falling shoe has even broken into my dreams. just the other night while i was sleeping, the radiology technician burst into my room to tell me they found a suspicious spot on my film. i started crying and saying, "but i just had my hair done! i don't wanna be bald!" i awoke and looked in the mirror. i said, "i'm still here. every thing is going to be ok. it was just a dream." that is, until yesterday.
yesterday was my actual mammogram appointment. i put on my highly flattering hospital gown and sat in the waiting room. then i was called in for a chest xray. this seemed to go fine. and i was sent back to waiting room. next i get called for my mammogram. some films are taken. and again, i wait. but now they call me back for another chest xray. hmmm... i start to worry. i am taken back to waiting room. the tech says if everything is ok, they will have someone from my oncologist office (down the hall) come get me to go over films and have my regular follow-up. hurray! someone comes and escorts me down the hall. i'm thinking that i'm all clear. i meet with onc. things go great. she does a physical exam and draws blood. then she asks "did you have a mammogram today?" i say "yes". she says "let me go look at your slides". and that's when radiology bursts in to say i need to have more pictures taken. this is also when my heart drops. apparently radiology has found something of concern. shit! i close my eyes and open them again. but i'm still here. it is not a dream.
i have more pictures taken. the mammography tech says these pictures will be a little more painful and will take longer. it was like my breast was auditioning for a contortionist at a freak show. i had no idea it could do THAT?
and what do my breast acrobatics earn me? a trip to the ultrasound room. i meet yet another technician. she rolls her magic ultrasound wand around. then leaves the room. i close my eyes again. open them. shit, i'm still here. ok, so now the head radiologist comes in and i get ultrasounded again.
they have found what appears as two cysts that have fused together in a dumbbell shape. normally cysts aren't a big concern. but they are also surrounded by calcifications. shit, shit, shit. calcifications are what led me to my original diagnosis. sometimes, they are pre-cancer. and in my case before, they weren't only pre-cancer, they were cancer that had become invasive and spread to my lymph nodes.
i finally get to change out of my beautiful gown. i talk to my oncologist. and find out that due to the calcifications, needle biopsy is not an option. it needs to be surgically removed. but my surgeon's on vacation for the next week. so i have to wait until february 26th to meet with her.
so here i wait. i am still going to celebrate my five years next weekend. and i'm going to party with friends. i'm going to sing and dance in celebration. and i'm going to try to ignore that size 7 pink patent leather shoe that's dangling right in front of me.