One of the challenges of being a breast cancer survivor is the fear of recurrence. It’s a strange fear for me at this point, more than four years out from the end of my treatment. I don’t look like a cancer survivor anymore, and most days I don’t feel like one. Most of my coworkers don’t even know I have been through cancer, and I would think that it would surprise them, given that I am just 33 years old. My breast cancer is no longer a regular topic of conversation among my family and friends. It just seems further away each day.
For these reasons, I am blindsided by this terrible fear of recurrence twice a year – when it’s time for my annual mammogram, and then my annual MRI. Usually I can usually keep the thought of going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment again at bay, but at this time of year, it keeps me up at night. I wish I could put it out of my head. I wish the fear would diminish over time, but it hasn’t.
This Friday is my annual mammogram. I’ve had many (8 or 9) and the process, while certainly a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing, isn’t so bad at all when it goes well. The waiting is hard though, especially when you’ve had a mammogram go poorly. As a survivor, I get a diagnostic mammogram, so I get the results right away. My initial cancer was not found through a mammogram (I found it myself) but about five months after my treatment ended in 2008, I had an abnormal mammogram and had to go back in for a surgical biopsy. It ended up just fine, but I carry that memory with me and it just adds to the anxiety.
I will be sure to write next week with the results. I am hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.