March 14 marked three years of survivorship for me…excuse me while I do my happy dance! But wait, what is this anxiety I feel? In 2014 and 2015, I made a big deal about my cancerversaries. My work peeps heard about it for weeks leading up to the big date, my friends were invited to celebrate, and I felt a sense of giddiness to mark another year without a recurrence. What happened to the party this year?
I’ve had a lot on my plate recently, and quite frankly the date nearly slipped my mind. Work has amped up, and Miss Grace and I will be moving soon to a new home. The process of house hunting, purchasing, packing, and moving is overwhelming in and of itself. Add the stress of transitioning Mom from living independently to assisted living, and watching the person I love most in the world decline, well it is heartbreaking.
But there has been something deeper than family, career, and domicile that has kept me from making a fuss. Most remissions occur in the three- to seven-year window. There it is.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation notes that most recurrences occur in the first five years. The American Journal of Managed Care refers to the three- to seven-year window. At 10 years after initial treatment, the recurrence rate drops drastically, which is why my oncologists are fixated on that 10-year mark.
Meanwhile, I’m living in the three- to seven-year space.
I’ve been asked if cancer is always on my mind. If I obsess over it. That’s tough to answer, because cancer is part of me. I didn’t ask for this. I had no choice in the matter, but I have to accept that it is, and always will be, part of who I am. I wrote shortly after my diagnosis in this post that cancer would not define me, but there is no denying cancer either.
It’s a little like asking if breathing is always on one’s mind. Yes and no. You know it is part of you, you don’t think about it every moment, but you are innately aware of the fact, on some level, that you are breathing at all times.
So, my answer is yes, cancer is always on my mind; and my answer is no, I do not obsess over it because it is often not intentional thought, it is an awareness. Except now I’m three years cancer-free. That three- to seven-year window just cracked open, and I’d love nothing more than to shut this sh-t down. But I can’t.
I’m dealing with my fear of being overconfident, of jinxing myself, and I will celebrate. I’ll rally my friends and do it up good. After all, regardless of health, wealth, age, luck, or lack thereof, you still only live once!