It has been 10 years this month since I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. I saw my doctor today and it was almost comical how non important this anniversary was to him. Not because he didn’t know it was a big deal but because it’s cancer and cancer can return. So while I as the patient mark each year as an important victory he remains ever vigilant in his treatment of a disease that could come back at any time.
In my head, I’d reach ten years and I’d have party with my endo. We’d shake hands, laugh at the good run we’ve had, maybe have a beer and part our ways. Because this chronic illness stuff is tiring.
But it’s cancer and it could come back. I wish I had a search team that could shake the cancer cells out for good. Are they hiding in my lungs? Somewhere in my thigh bone? What about my lymph nodes? Are they hiding along with the cold my kids gave me?
Living with cancer feels like I have one foot firmly on the ground and my other foot is hovering over a cliff I know is there but can’t see. And I know I probably won’t fall but I could. So I do the only thing I can. I walk forward. I breathe in and I breathe out. I pay attention to what matters.
There are good days when I can do this. And there are days that I talk to cancer like it’s an ex-boyfriend I don’t want to see again but appreciate the life experience he gave me. Like, “Hey, cancer, you were here. You left your mark. Nice smiley faced scar you gave me. Are we cool?”
I sat in the exam room today and the endo and I went through lab results. He handed me orders for blood tests and chest x-rays. We went through the chart to see when my last bone density scan was and the date of my last full body scan trying to figure out when we should schedule them again. 10 years passed and another 10 will pass and I will still be getting chest x rays, body scans, bone scans and blood tests.
It’s life with cancer. Life lived between 6 month check-ups and 5 year body scans.
Cancer changed my life in good ways. I don’t think I was fully present in my life until the diagnosis. I’ve changed. I don’t want to waste my precious days on things that don’t matter. I’ve written a book. I’m writing more.
I wish I had come about all of these changes in a different way.
A post it note.
A good book.
Friendly advice from a friend.
I wish it hadn’t come in the form of a disease that doesn’t know when to leave the party. But, this is my life. It is the life I walk every day and I cannot live it in fear always wondering when my foot along the cliff edge will slip.
Because that isn’t life.
I know the cliff is there. I don’t get to choose a different path but I can get to keep walking. It’s been 10 years of incredible life giving change. If I’ve grown this much in 10 years. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next ten.
And that’s what I will focus on. That is where my hope is. That is how I persevere.