Written August 2018
It’s been more than a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I was diagnosed and told I would need a lumpectomy, I thought I would be finished and back to myself by August. HA! I’m still healing. Still regaining strength and energy. How much longer? The doctors agree it can take a year to recover from radiation treatments. Radiation treatments ended in October 2017, so hopefully by October of this year I will have my energy and life back!
I just had my 6 month checkups in April following the radiation treatments that ended in October. At that time my skin still had a pinkish tint, it looked like ostrich skin in places, and areas felt like chicken that’s been cooked too long in the microwave. I still have no hair in the armpit on that side…the only cancer bonus! My surgeon says that all the skin issues will mostly resolve over the next year, but it will likely never return to what it was before. And the rubbery chicken analogy is a perfect description of the “cooking” I went through in radiation.
The good news from the checkups is the mammogram shows ZERO signs of cancer! The bad news is I will not be considered “cancer free” for a minimum of 5-10 years. I will have to see the surgeon and oncologist for checkups for at least 5 years, possibly longer. And the worst kicker? If it spreads, the only way to detect it is if I develop symptoms! Insurance pays for no scans except mammograms every 6 months. Honestly the no scan thing is good news to me and my phobias. But if the cancer were to spread it would not be caught until it becomes life-threatening (stage 4). Stage 4 is 100% incurable and includes a life sentence of endless chemotherapy in an effort to prolong the patient’s life.
Why do I post all this negative information on what should be a celebration post? Because I’m utterly disgusted at the shortcomings of modern medicine. We hear all the hype of how cancer caught early is easily treated. My mind translated “easily treated” as “easily cured”. Nowhere do we hear about the unending chemo treatments for stage 4 patients. When we hear of someone diagnosed in stage 4 undergoing chemo, there is the assumption that the chemo has a chance of saving their life. Not so. When cancer is that far advanced, the only hope is to slow the progression. Meaning that person will die from cancer; it’s only a question of when. Literally early detection saves lives. It also prevents a life lived in chemotherapy misery.
Life lesson learned from cancer?
Get your yearly mammogram!
Get your routine colonoscopy!
Check your skin…and ask your doctor about any skin area or mole that changes!
Persistent cough? Get an x-ray or other scan!
Blood in the stool or urine? Go to your doctor!
Be aware of what is normal for you and your body. Bring anything that is not normal for you to your doctor’s attention. Promptly. It can literally save your life, save your family heartache, save your finances, and save you from some horrible treatment options.
****Addendum 4/18/20–This was originally posted with no pictures. That was because I could find no fitting picture. I still can’t. This is a bleak black-and-white post because a doctor telling you that you are now cancer-free never really means free of cancer.