Neo what?

Before 2014, I hadn’t heard the word “neoplasm” before. If you would have asked me what it was, I would have assumed it was some kind of science fiction term. I might have thought it had something to do with The Matrix (since Neo was the main character). I never thought it would be part of my permanent record. (My medical record, not my criminal record.)

Yesterday was my oncology follow up. Every 6 months, I drive back to Fargo to meet with the oncology Dr to see if anything has changed. Before this appointment, I had an MRI, ultrasound and mammogram in Alexandria. A few days after the tests and before the oncology appointment, I skimmed through the test results online looking for key words… “no sign of malignancy,” “benign,” “no abnormalities.” I’m not a doctor, but I know that if you have those 3 tests and there is anything suspicious, they will call you. Since I was reading these results myself, this was also a good sign. I saw nothing that looked concerning.

A neoplasm is a fancy word for tumor. My medical records will always include “malignant neoplasm of central portion of left female breast.” I will always remember December 2014. The timing of cancer free or survivor vary depending on what you’re talking about. They consider you a survivor when you’re diagnosed… I guess because you’re not dead? That part seemed strange to me. You’re considered cancer free after they remove your tumor. The “5 year mark” for me is based on when I started my hormone suppressing (aka “anti-cancer pills.”) I started those the summer after my hysterectomy, so according to that, I’m at 3 1/2 years. These were all things we discussed at the appointment. Since my side effects are minimal, I will likely stay on this medication for 10 years. The doctor agreed. It was a pretty uneventful appointment, and I am SUPER thankful!

After I got the “all clear,” I stopped up to see a friend (similar in age) on the oncology floor. He was in for low white counts and infection risk. We talked about somedays. I shared with him my clean bill of health, we talked about how kids process a parent with cancer, and we talked about how this changes you. It’s difficult to describe unless it’s happened to you. Someday we will take the trip. Someday I’ll change jobs. Someday we will start a family (not either of us by the way.. I was just making a point.) Cancer gives you a reminder that we are human. We aren’t meant to walk the earth in the same body forever. We don’t have an unlimited time line. Love, live life and experience it!

When I read the word neoplasm, my heart stops a little. Perhaps years from now it won’t do that, but for now it still does. It releases a flood of emotions some days, and other days I don’t think about it as much. For today, I will thank the neoplasm for all it has taught me, and be thankful it is gone.

On your journey of enough, may you be surrounded by people who care about you. Go do one of your somedays & reach out to that person you’ve been “meaning to call.”

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