6 and counting…

This is the shirt I wore on Monday. I normally just wear it around the house, but I thought it was appropriate. For 15 minutes, it sat on the chair in the doctor’s office for my yearly checkup (not that kind). I’ve graduated from oncology follow up appointments being every 6 months. Now I just go yearly for in person visits, still alternating MRI and mammogram every 6 months. It’s been over 6 years since I rang the bell. Each time I walk back into the cancer center, it takes my breath away a little bit.

Today’s appointment was fairly uneventful. I did get the green light to skip the dexascan (bone density) every 2 years. Since my numbers looked good last time, the Examestane & lack of estrogen must not be creating any bone issues. Although the dexascan is not painful or uncomfortable, there is something reassuring about not having to get one done. I’m 47, so osteoporosis is not super common, but it is more likely given my medical situation (side effects of estrogen reducing drugs and total hysterectomy/menopause). The Dr also asked if I wanted to continue the meds I’m on. I said “yes,” because my physical side effects are minimal (everyone is different), and I had aunts with breast cancer more than once. If a tiny, once a day pill can prolong my life, I’m all for it. And now that I met my deductible, the $500/month is covered.

We chatted awkwardly about the weather and how I had been feeling. I had nothing to note, really. I recently had my MRI, which showed small change in right side lymph nodes, but nothing to be worried about. We talked about my vertigo and other routine medical things. It was wonderfully uneventful. As soon as he left the room and I put my “breathe” shirt back on, I did just that. I took a deep breath and texted my family & friends that I had the “all clear” for another year. I walked outside into the sunny, 85 degree day, took off my mask and took a deep breath again. I walked over to the sculpture, snapped a picture and gave thanks. I’m thankful for my health, the support of my friends and family, the ability to keep sharing my story, and for the wonderful sunshine.

Why do I share such a mundane thing? Because for cancer survivors, it’s not over when they ring the bell. It’s not over when the treatment ends, when the scars heal or when their hair grows back. It’s a lifelong sensitivity to their health, follow up appointments they don’t discuss, health scares they may worry about in silence. They become the family member or friend who had cancer. They become an expert even when they don’t feel like they are… but they have been through it. They get calls or texts or messages from people asking how to help their newly diagnosed loved one… because they have been though it. I have been through it. While it is in my past, it will still make me pause each time I walk through those doors and wait for my appointment… thankful that I can just breathe.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Wherever you are, it’s always a good reminder to breathe deep & say a “thank you” when you do. And if you’re in Fargo, ND and want a fun treat, check out the Thai ice cream rolls at Tea & Crepe downtown. We had a nice walk downtown, stopping at some shops and visiting with friends.

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