I had an oncology follow-up appointment today, as I’ve had at least once a year for the last six years. They never fail to send me into an anxiety spiral. Every oncology appointment forces me to face my mortality, to consider whether or not this is going to be the one where they discover that it’s back, that it’s spread, that I’m doomed. Finis. The End.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis I felt far to young and too healthy to worry about death. Post treatment, my age caught up with me and then added a few decades to that in the form of side effects from Tamoxifen, a drug I was supposed to take for next ten years.
I quit after five. This doesn’t help with my anxiety over a recurrence. Yet I don’t regret it (except around appointment times) sometimes I even wish I’d given up sooner, and then maybe I would have bounced back by now.
The annual appointment makes me very aware that I have so much more left to do, so much left to write. Figuratively and Literally. Afterwards, I’m flooded with relief. Though I’m not sure why. There were no blood tests, no mammograms, no bone scans, just a manual exam that I do all the time on my own and a “looks good” from the oncologist.
I do have an appointment for a mammogram a few months from now. I imagine Covid-19 has something to do with the longer than usual wait. I hate everything about them, so even though it would be nice to have the reassurance sooner rather than later, I can’t help feeling relief that I won’t have to get it the girls mashed and manhandled until January.
I should mention that my original tumor didn’t show up on a mammogram, so I don’t put much faith in the “no sign of disease” letter I’ll get a week or so after. Yet, experience has taught me that I will be flooded with relief when I tear that envelope open, sketchy as it is.
I want to write more today but I’m exhausted from the release of tension and anxiety. I want to take a nap, but I doubt I will be able to fall asleep. I want to live, but that is never guaranteed, even if you don’t have cancer.
From this vantage point it’s easy to see why the promise of an afterlife is very comforting to the religious. I wish I found the same solace in the promise of the nothingness awaits me. On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about the third option, the one with all the fire an brimstone. I try to remind myself that I wasn’t here for the endless billions of years before my birth, and I never worry about that, so why should the endless billions of years after I’m gone worry me? But this is a discourse for another time, my mind and body need rest— just not a permanent one.