Aztec 3

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Now I'm Surviving

Yesterday I had my last appointment with my beloved oncologist. She is a precious person. She is brilliant, compassionate, and constantly reading, learning, researching, striving to gain the latest knowledge to serve her patients in the best possible way. You might be thinking, "Don't all doctors do that?" No. No they don't. Ours is a medical family and I've been around medicine for almost 20 years, long enough to know that doctors like mine are true gems. I've been lucky through my cancer journey to have had several -- my medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, internist, and oncology psychiatrist. But in my life I've had ones that simply saw the patient and not the person. When you've had cancer you need doctors that see the person.

It's been more than three years since my cancer diagnosis and I'm now considered a "survivor" at my cancer center. This means that by all accounts my cancer is gone and I'm on a 6-month follow-up schedule for blood work and med checks. I could not be more thankful for this! I'm well aware that many people have not experienced this same journey and it's humbling. 

My oncologist is moving out of state next month. She said she'd gladly take me with her but I don't need her anymore. She underestimates my sentimentality and attachment. Ha! In reality though, we put our lives in their hands. When I got my diagnosis and heard the words "it's cancer" my world stopped spinning and I lost all control. Then the sprint of labs, tests, doctors appointments, etc. had me clinging to life and sanity with white knuckles. My oncologist spent hours with us walking through different scenarios, possible complications and solutions, and treatment plans. She consulted colleagues and championed my cause. She and my breast surgeon were like a tag-team of a lifeline during that time. My life was in their hands, and although my cancer was stage 1 it was still the scariest point in our lives thus far. And they were there 100%. 

The funny thing about the attachments we feel towards doctors is that they don't often understand it. At least the good ones don't. Because they do their jobs so well that they are both wildly talented in their medical skills and bedside manner. They give patients what they need and want without extra effort. They're built that way as doctors and human beings.

I anxiously await this next chapter -- the one where I rarely go to the cancer center and my oncologist doesn't actually know me. And while I know logically that my cancer will likely not return the rest of me still assumes it will one day. Because that's what cancer does to us. It takes our control and fills us with doubt. But I won't let it win. I can't live my life that way and I need to believe it myself when I tell my kids it's very unlikely that my cancer will return. So I'm taking my meds, trying to be physically and mentally healthy, and making efforts to advocate for others touched by this disease. There are complications -- weight gain and fatigue from my meds, the heaviness of walking with others through hard times, the memories and anniversaries of my own. But these are necessary experiences and I'm thankful that I'm in the aftermath and no longer fighting. Now I'm surviving.