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Last week I had my "last" appointment with my oncologist. Technically, it was the last appointment related to my year long course of treatment. Semi-annual follow up appointments are my new norm. Due to the nature of my cancer, I don't think I will officially be free of Dr. "W" until...like...well...never. Yet when I left his office last week, I did so without having an exact return date.
A first in over a year.
My next appointment won't be for 6 months which is far enough into the future they could not schedule my appointment at this time. While I'm sure this doesn't sound unreasonable to most, to a cancer fighting chica six months is an eternity.
Since the end of August last year I have had 116 cancer related medical appointments. How do I know?
And that was only those recorded on my company calendar. There were several not posted during my absence after surgery. Who knows what the true number is. Considering the ginormous amount of poking and prodding I received over the course of a year one would think I would be thrilled to be released back into the world of only-go-to-the-doctor-when-you-feel-like-you-are-gonna-die.
But I wasn't thrilled. Something was nagging me and it wasn't a pleasant feeling.
After chatting it up with Dr. "W" and being informed I was a free woman, at least for a while, I did what I always do...climbed in the car for the 20 minute drive home. This post-appointment commute time is always reserved for processing all the information thrown at me during my most recent visit. It is used to focus on the positive and for directing my attention to the remaining battles to be fought. However this time things were different. My commute was cut short. Why?
I fell apart.
No amount of "processing" could prevent the tidal wave of tears that began to flow from my eyes. The flood gates had opened. I had a meltdown to rival all meltdowns. Unable to drive, I pulled into the first empty parking space I could find at a nearby grocery store and cried like never before. It was such an ugly cry too. One complete with runny nose, heaving sobs and hiccups. As I sat in the parking lot, wailing like a baby, the only thought running through my mind was...
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?
In other words...
Before we go any further, I need to explain the significance of the above obscenity. I'm one of those who rarely uses the "f" word. I'm not saying that makes me bigger or better than anyone who does. It just isn't my go-to-swear word. Trust that I do spew forth a few curse words from time to time...my most favorite being shit. And I say it with a true country girl twang. So it sounds more like "sh-ee-et"...all long and drawn out. I've tried to train myself to say it in a more refined way but it just ain't gonna happen. When cussing, my country roots are hard-wired into my system with no means to over-ride them.
I also would be lying if I said I've never dropped the "f" bomb because I have. Most often in times of great distress. Yet even with obvious times of "great distress" such as divorce and cancer being a part of my past, I still haven't used the word that often. So...when my only thought was WTF, I knew something was seriously wrong. My reaction was completely unexpected. For the life of me I could not figure out what was the source of my anxiety. Should I not be happy my journey through hell was over?
Again...Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?
Once I squeezed out every single tear I could possibly muster up, my mind cleared enough for me to see the reason for my sob fest.
I was afraid.
And rightfully so. No longer would I be under a doctor's watchful eye. I would be on my own for 6 long months. Sure...that doesn't sound like such a great deal of time before my next check in for a check up. But the fact remains that last year I went from a clean mammogram to full-blown stage 3 cancer in 8 short...very short...months. The thought of what could happen during these 6 months was more than I could take.
When my battle began, the "c" beast tried to catch me unaware. It craftily worked its wiles without so much as a hint of its existence. When it attacked, it came fully prepared to be make a BIG statement in spite of me doing my part to avoid its invasion or at least arrest the rogue cells early.
I did annual mammograms.
I did self-exams.
I was very aware of my body.
I had done all we are told to do for early detection. Yet none of this prevented the onslaught of an aggressive enemy determined to take me out. I did not catch the "c" creature in its early stages. It had won the first battle with a surprise attack...a fact I could not deny. A fact I had not really considered until now. Thoughts swirled around the question of what if the slain beast resurrects itself. It was time to deal with the horrific thought that the cancer could come back.
No cancer fighting warrior wants to believe the battle is not yet over...or even worse...that they may eventually lose the fight. But the hard cold truth is that a recurrence could happen. Cancer is a formidable opponent. Until a cure is found, it can and will win at times. This past year alone, I lost two very dear friends to this monster. Both battled breast cancer. Both were young. Both did everything they could to fight. But they lost. And my heart is broken.
I am well aware of the severity of my situation and I intend to give it the respect it deserves. But I refuse to give it anything more than that. My time in the grocery store parking lot left me with a lot more than a red nose and puffy eyes. When I shifted my car into drive and headed home, I did so with a new resolve to enjoy the moment. To live today with no fear of tomorrow. Cancer claimed this past year of my life. For now, I am cancer free. Why in the world should I give the horrid "c" creature one more second than is needed to obliterate it from my being?
I am alive.
And I'm going to live.
I will not give in to my fears of what could or could not happen. I will enjoy each day without a worry of what tomorrow will bring.
In other words...
I drove home with a smile on my face for I felt I had found the perfect way to tell cancer to "F(oxtrot) off"!