Monday, September 27, 2010

Being in the majority is cool!

Let me just state that what brought on the topic of this post was my most recent PET Scan.

You spend most of your life thinking you're nestled safely in the majority of all statistics. If I told you that 0.625% of people will spontaneously combust, you're probably not gonna go running for the fire extinguisher. You'd probably wager big that you'd fall into the 99.375% of the people that would be just fine (I'd take those odds!). As a young woman, I had a 0.625% chance of getting breast cancer ("young" is considered to be less than 40). Right before my diagnosis I had been told over and over that it wasn't possibly cancer and that I was too young. The shock of diagnosis hit me, my family, and my friends *that* much harder.

Now I've finished treatment and because of my triple negative breast cancer, there is no further therapy I can do to try to prevent a recurrence. I have had all the odds stacked up against me: my age, the triple negative status, my BRCA gene mutation, and my stage IIIA at diagnosis. So I hit the cancer with everything they've got. The most potent chemo, the most severe surgery, and even a "boost" on top of all the radiation treatments are all that shield me from a recurrence. Now I am pushed into the world of "survivorship" and everywhere I turn I'm faced with frightening statistics. With my super-aggressive type of breast cancer, I'm looking at a 30% chance of developing a recurrence and a 15% chance I won't see my 35th birthday? And these are "good" statistics? Now if I told you that you had a 30% chance of spontaneously combusting, I bet you'd be standing ready with the fire extinguisher, a garden hose, and the fire department's phone number on speed dial.

Now you can start to see some of the anxiety that I, as a survivor, have to live with. Every ache and pain in my body I immediately think is a metastasis (spreading of the breast cancer to other parts of the body). If I have a headache, it's brain mets. If I have a pain in my back, it's bone mets. If I have pain under my expanders (which I should! the tissue has been cut out and fried by radiation) then I think it's a recurrence. So yes, I am very happy to be done with treatment but as long as I'm living under this constant worry then I don't feel "cancer free". (I have been told, however, that with each clean scan the worry lessens.)

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