The fear of recurrence is very real to a cancer survivor. Somewhere in the back of your heart and mind you are never completely free from the thought of recurrence. This past week the possibility of recurrence became a reality for me.
Sunday morning I woke up in significant pain with swelling, redness and a noticeably hard lump. Immediately, panic washed over my entire body and took a firm seat in my mind. It seems the more I tried to rationalize reasons this could be happening, the worse the anxiety became. After contacting my nurse, I promptly medicated, wiped the tears from my face and got ready for church. The worship was great and the sermon was was on point. God really showed up for me again, as usual. But, it was very difficult to sit through prayer requests knowing that I needed prayer, but not wanting to share what I might be facing.
Yet again, I found myself pulling into privacy to protect my kids. I knew they had an intense week coming up with exams, finalizing the school year, graduation and three days of drum major tryouts. I just could not put this extra worry on them. For a week I avoided my daughter, my sister, my mother and my mother-in-law…though unsuccessfully.
As I spent the week in tears and prayer, I just could not understand why every medical professional I spoke with seemed so nonchalant about this situation. “You just had a mammogram very recently”; Yes, I understand my mammogram 5 weeks ago came back clear. “It isn’t likely to be anything serious within such a short period of time”; Yes, I understand the likelihood of a large advance stage cancer didn’t just pop up overnight. I kept thinking (cue the drama), ‘What is your point? Don’t you understand I’m in the worst pain ever known to man and there is a huge, larger than life, asteroid size knot sticking so far out the side of breast that I can’t even put my arm down! Geez!’ (Yeah, I can be a drama queen and I’m sure my nurse has had a good laugh at me this week!)
After an ultrasound was performed by my surgeon, their suspicions (and lack of panic) were correct. I have some fluid build-up in the cavity where the lump was removed. The scar tissue has not filled in the space completely and the fluid was building up a littler faster than my body was able to absorb it. All of this is common in healing after any surgical procedure. The amount of fluid was small and I opted not to risk infection and have it drawn off at this time. To err on the side of caution, I am taking an antibiotic to make sure there is no current infection.
I’m glad to be off this emotional roller-coaster. And, I don’t mean to make light of the emotions a survivor goes through when they fear a recurrence by joking about my exaggerated dramatics. Unfortunately, exaggerated dramatics can happen when you are afraid. I also don’t want to trivialize the reality that some people will find out they have had a recurrence when they experience certain symptoms. And, while my fear and symptoms were very real, I have an amazing medical team that communicated with me daily (and could discern dramatics over reality) and knew from their experience I didn’t have an emergency situation, yet took quick action to make sure. I know this won’t be the last time I face the worry of recurrence, but I sure am glad that I can fall back on God’s healing miracle. He just doesn’t heal half-way; it’s whole and complete.
I now move on to checking more dreams off my list: my daughter’s graduation, family vacation and seeing my son conduct his marching band this fall as the newly selected drum major. I am super proud of my kids and I’m going to enjoy every minute of being their mom.
Praying and Believing…and enjoying life!