Anticipation After Cancer Treatment

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Anticipation After Cancer Treatment

This week, I have my first 3 month checkup post treatment.  I’m going for my blood work tomorrow morning and will see my Oncologist on Friday. I am a little nervous. So much so that I’m writing about it.  Ok, there. I said it.

Because of the unpredictable nature of cancer, many people facing a diagnosis and initial treatment eventually must face the issue of the dreaded “R” (recurrence). I’ve been asked whether I worry about it.  I wouldn’t say that I worry about it per say.  I come from the place of “it is what it is and will be what it will be.”  However, it’s not that I don’t think about it.  Especially this week.

My beloved mother-in-law used to worry incessantly about recurrence (until the day her cancer did indeed recur). Recurrence anxiety is a typical worry focused on the possibility that cancer will return. It can be a pervasive and, at times, overwhelming dread experienced by families as well as patients. Dread is a good description of what I’m feeling. It is a coping response that all people who have had cancer can expect to experience. I know it’s normal, but can I just say:  UGH!  Enough already!

The roots of F-bomb cancer are not only physical, but also emotional. The threat of the dreaded “R” is one of the reasons why cancer is such a feared disease.  Even long-term survivors continue to experience anxiety (or even distress as in the case of my mother-in-law) over fear of the dreaded “R”.

The usual pattern of recurrence anxiety is erratic with the exception of the immediate period following treatment completion (which is where I am).  The first year following treatment cessation generally is associated with the most intense concerns about recurrence (also where I am).

There are two typical responses to recurrence anxiety:  hypochondriasis (as the survivor suspects that any physical change or new symptom portents the cancer’s return) and avoidance (whereby physician contact is circumvented for fear that physical follow-up could diagnose the malignancy’s reappearance).  Can I just say that living in this head ain’t easy!  I’ve definitely had some hypochondria this week (e.g., Why am I so fatigued?  Why does my back hurt? My hot flashes are getting even worse!) and would love nothing more than to have a root canal over seeing my oncologist on Friday.  I’m just sayin’….

I recognize the fact that fear of recurrence continues after the initial diagnosis…and well after treatment is finished.  It is what it is. However, I know that anticipating things that don’t exist only takes time away from living.  I’m doing my best to welcome and address my emotions because if I try to disregard or bury them, they WILL come back!

In the meantime, in this moment, I am celebrating my health and strength (Silver Lining). I’m looking at the orchid in my office with deeper appreciation…and the quote below for a wonderfully sweet perspective.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    My 84 year old neighbor has been cancer free for over 25 years and yet every time she goes in for her check up for "the cancer" as she says in her joking, nonchalant way, I can see it in her face that she is a little (or maybe a lot) worried. I can't even begin to imagine what this is like, but, still I feel for you.

    Maybe when you are 84 you can joke about it too.

    • Brookside Buzz says

      Thanks so much for your comment. Your 84 year-old neighbor sounds adorable. The Silver Lining is that I'm learning from others to joke NOW! Thanks, again!

  2. Nan and Hilary Jacob says

    H..Been thinking of you while in Rome with Hilary,we send our love. Although our mother-in-law and my sister, who you have met and has/had thyroid cancer, did worry about the dreaded "R", you are so strong and have such an amazing outlook, your sheer essence of being out powers the dreaded "R",this I do believe. Sadly our dear mother-in-law did have the "R", my sister has not and it's been many years. No matter what, you all three are amazing, inspiring women! Thinking of you always. Nan

  3. PATTI WHITE says

    Hollye,

    Once again you have expressed exactly the words I need to explain how I am feeling..I feel so blessed to have come through all of the treatment but still feel that dread. I acutally copied this post and sent it to my husband because it so resonates with me. Thank you once again for you wisdom, words of encouragement and love that is so evident in every single post.

  4. Christine says

    I am there celebrating with you every step of the way. No matter how much love and support we have from friends and loved ones at our side, it is still a road travelled alone at times. Stay strong, my friend. Savor the moment.

  5. Kimberly says

    Oh…the dreaded R!! I celebrated my 7th birthday this year (survivor of cervical and uterine cancer….resulting in a full hysterectomy at 33), I get it! I will be going for my yearly check up in Nov. and I am already dreading it. Hypochondriasis is alive and well in my world, but you learn to live. First the checkups were every 3 months, then 6 months, now a year….that was hard. I cried each time my Dr. moved the checkup back….and refused to wait a year the first time! The SL in all of this, is when you get the "all thumbs up" and a hug from your favorite new person in the world…your DR. and they say see you next time! Keep living…keep doing what you are doing…what will be will certainly be, but the strides you have taken and the accomplishments you have made will prevail! I was blessed and had two amazing sons in my 20's…our motto has become…Cherish Every Moment…Love Love Love…and ALWAYS Keep the Faith!

    • Brookside Buzz says

      Congratulations on your birthday, Kimberly. I appreciate the words of wisdom so very much. I'm looking very forward to the thumbs up!