Once you have cancer, it will follow you around like toilet paper stuck to your flip-flop: You’re constantly reminded of it, and you’re constantly afraid of it coming back. The anxiety after cancer treatment ends is sometimes crippling. It’s like having the Grim Reaper as your neighbor. He’s an annoying guy who walks over to your yard and says “Howdy-ho, neighbor!” and steps on your rose garden. He ruins your day when you least expect it. Death stalks you.
The anxiety touches down quickly like a tornado, and will uproot your day; happiness, faith, and courage snap like trees in the vortex. It’s anywhere and everywhere — at the gym, watching television, clicking through Facebook. What is this lump? Why am I coughing? Oh no, my friend on social media had a recurrence?! That means I’m probably next. It’s a paralyzing nightmare that we live daily. Cancer is completely irrational and unjust in choosing if or when it returns. It’s a never-ending game of Russian roulette.
Every cancer survivor I know lives with some form of anxiety due to cancer. And don’t get us started on the self-loathing and guilt we feel as survivors, knowing that others have died from the same disease, yet we are still here on this Earth. Why did I live? Why the heck did I get cancer? Was it because I (insert bad behavior/bad vice here)? Is it going to come back? It’s a senseless inner debate we replay over and over in our heads.
I ask myself these questions, but I am not prepared for the answers. I really don’t want to know why or how I got cancer, or if it will come back. Because what if the answer is my own fault? What if the answer is two months from now? I don’t want to know. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned from having cancer is to live in the moment.
A few weeks ago, the fear and panic of a cancer recurrence had consumed my life. I was convinced I had cancer again because I felt a few lumpy tidbits in my right breast. After my second MRI — I passed out during the first exam due to anxiety — my results came back negative. Negative, just like my attitude leading up to those results. It turned out to be just scar tissue. It was nothing. Go figure.
The fear, the panic attacks, the hypothetical planning of my own funeral was all for nothing (pool party, nobody wears black, fried chicken, fountain of vodka soda, fountain of nacho cheese, shoot my ashes into space). I realized that worrying is like cancer in itself. It’s poison to your mind. It creeps into the crevices of your spirit and the cracks grow until it has consumed everything.
Is a cancer recurrence in my control? Maybe, to an extent. I do what I can to stay healthy, but honestly cancer is brutally unbiased. It doesn’t care if you eat Cheetos and bacon everyday, or if you’re a vegan who has exercised every day of your adult life. Sometimes the latter get cancer because cancer doesn’t stereotype; it will attack anybody.
We’re all doing our best and I think that’s enough. So, go on and live your life as healthy as you can. The best defense against cancer is optimism. Visualize your future without cancer. Manifest your positive thoughts into existence. Pray for your friends’ and family’s health. Live for today, because nobody can predict what happens tomorrow.
We’re all going to be okay. I know a lot of people have major anxiety over the the thought of a recurrence. I still do. But I am actively making a decision to stay positive and encouraging to all my cancer warriors. Be vigilant in your journey, but stay calm and know that it’s really not in your control. Surrender your fear; take a leap of faith and trust that the universe will take you where you’re meant to be.
Namaste, my pink sisters.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.