If a cancer survivor's #1 resolution is to be cancer-free, what would their last resolution be?
Well, to stay that way.
The chance of a relapse is highest in the year after a patient's treatment. A cancer survivor might wonder, in that year, whether they achieved remission as a result of constant treatment, or whether their body actually healed itself from that awful, incessant, uncontrolled, cell reproduction. You can imagine, then, the anticipation my most recent, one-year-post-treatment scan held for me.
The news is excellent. One year after treatment, the scar tissue leftover from my tumour has lessened, and the chances of my type of cancer (PMBCL) of recurring at this point is almost nil. I'll never be in the clear, but the conversation I had with my radiation oncologist was the closest I'll come to hearing "You Are Cured".
Hearing this come from my ever-skeptical doctor's mouth, I had a bit of an out-of-body experience. I was transported back in time to the bike ride back to work after my doctor gave me the news that a "neoplasm" occupied my right chest cavity. Tears burned the skin on my face as the warm, July air whipped past me. I glared at everyone who walked or drove past me, angry at and envious of their carelessness. I had never before felt so alone and so darn unlucky.
Fast forward to this week, I'm sitting at Princess Margaret Hospital, getting the best news any cancer survivor could get. For the first time in 18 months, I felt the bitterness dissolve and realized how lucky I truly am. I am finally grateful for my diagnosis, my treatment, and my recovery. With 40% of women and 45% of men developing cancer in their lifetime, my diagnosis is behind me.
These feelings of luck, gratitude, and maybe even acceptance, are new to me. Heck, even the act of delivering good news is totally unfamiliar! But, because it's something I didn't even dare dream of, I'm letting myself get excited about it.
I'm still cancer free one year out of treatment. And now I can dream about being cancer free forever.