Check-ups, Anxiety and Breast Cancer

So I had this nice, tidy, cut and dried blog entry ready to post about how to prepare for breast cancer check-ups post treatment.  It had all these specific little things to do, make a plan, do things differently, go to lunch beforehand at a new restaurant, drive a different way, numbered 1 through 7 – blah blah blah.  Well, guess what?  I tried it, and I do not think it helped me one bit for my breast cancer check-up.  So I cannot tell you what to do or how to prepare!  I flunked. It sure did not work for me!

It was my first 6 month checkup with my Medical Oncologist (prior it was every 3 months for the first year post-treatment), and I totally fell apart.  I erroneously thought I would be fine and anxiety would not get to me.  WRONG!  To coin a phrase, I was a basket case.  It was worse at the 6 month point because in 3 months you think “Oh, nothing much has changed.”

Every memory I did not even know I had came rushing forward.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was in full swing yesterday!  The day I took my medical records to the Cancer Center for the first time and my knees buckled when I saw the bald women.  Then the MRIs and scans, Mastectomy, the bone scans, all 16 chemo treatments, Neulasta shots, Herceptin, heart attack thank you Chemo, and God only knows what else came flooding back to me in one big WHOOSH!  Never had I felt anxiety that strong.  It was awful.  The memories kept pounding me.  Then in the exam room, I remembered how many times I had been in Exam Room 12!  How does my brain even know?  But it did!  Instinctively I knew that it was in Exam Room 12 where I first learned I had Stage 3 Breast Cancer.

Now 18 months out from active treatment ending, I look back from the perspective of time and think “How did I make it through?”  While in the midst of it, you have no choice but to go through it.   Maybe you are in the midst of  “IT” right now.  You will be given the strength to get through it, but later you will wonder how you did it!

The great news is after a thorough examination, my Oncologist said I was doing well, no tests needed right now, come back in 6 months.  It feels like you are in the electric chair and you just got a reprieve from the Governor!

While waiting to be called back, I met a woman with a chemo cap on in the waiting room.  We got to chatting.  She had a Stage 4 recurrence 7 years after initial Stage 2 diagnosis.  I gave her some of the hopeful stories I have heard from many of you who have found yourself in that same situation.  She was grateful.   Then we discussed anxiety and how you never get over the fear and how non-cancer survivors often think we are hypochondriacs and how we hate it all.   She said when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, which she never thought would happen to her, it made her realize just how vulnerable she is.  And she said it is that vulnerability that causes her fears.  That certainly made sense to me!

So Sisters of Breast Cancer, you gave me the strength to get through it yesterday.  All of you who write to me, share your stories with me, and tell me your fears, you were there with me yesterday.  THANK YOU!  I’m sorry I do not have any easy answers for you on how to get through checkups.  I do not.  As a woman who prays, I could not even pray!

One last thing I was eager to share with all of my University of Michigan medical personnel yesterday was how Breast Cancer has changed me in positive ways – like this Blog and Hello Courage, my online store.  I told every receptionist, nurse and doctor I could find about Hello Courage and passed out my cute post cards to them.  They were thrilled to hear about it (or at least acted like they were – LOL) and everyone said they were eager to go to their computers and look at my new Spring/Summer line of Chemo Caps!   I would NEVER have worn a wig if I would have had Chemo Caps like these!  Here is the preview for you – click on caps to get to http://www.hellocourage.com

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8 thoughts on “Check-ups, Anxiety and Breast Cancer

  1. You had me holding my breath! I wanted to scan ahead to make sure your 6 month was clear but the way you write, I couldn’t! So thankful you’re good to go another 6 months – whew. Had no idea of the anxiety you would have. So sorry for that time for you. Were you alone? I wish I could have been with you chatting away hopefully taking your mind away from those memories if only for bits at a time. I do hope it gets a little less stressful each time.

    I wonder if you have cards you could send me sharing Hello Courage? Our Pink Ribbon Rally is the first Saturday in October. It’s a golf tournament that has been very well attended in past years. We have a goody bag for all golfers that I thought your card could work in. We also have a Vendors Night this summer that has been a big hit. You could come share your items on display & sell them that night. Think about it. You could stay right here with us! Also if you have an item that you might want to donate to our silent auction, it would gladly be accepted. A few things to think about, dear friend. Let me know your thoughts.

    Love you, Suzette

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Well said, Denise! I am now just 9 months post diagnosis of stage 4 metasticized breast cancer to the bone. Every bone from my skull to my ankles had cancer. I was given 3-6 months to live. I was on palliative care and in a wheelchair. There was no hope given to me. I researched so many things. Did the turkey tail mushroom with the taxol because of your blog. Found a nsturopath and did some huge supplementation along with my conventional treatment. AND never wore a wig because I had these wonderfully cute, comfortable chemo caps to wear! Thank you for that!!!

    And as a postscript, last Monday the PET scan showed no active cancer and I was declared in remission. My normally brown hair came back silver and white. I’ve embraced it along with a short cut. :)

    Thank you for your blog and store!

  3. Denise, just wanted to let you know that your words have been so helpful and how what you say resonates with me. Believe I started following you around 6 months ago. I am a Primary Fallopian Tube Cancer Survivor, Stage2C. Finished chemo in July 2013. Have my third three month f/u on Tuesday. So far, NED. I also love your store and think your ‘chemo caps’ are the best I’ve seen. Look forward to your updates and wish you all the very best.
    Mary Ellen

    • Hi Mary Ellen, thanks for your great comments. Congratulations on
      being a Primary Fallopian Tube Cancer Survivor! And good luck on your
      follow-up on Tuesday! Will be thinking of you! Denise

  4. So, it’s OK to be scared of upcoming oncology appointments? It’s alright to believe cancer is just waiting for the opportune moment to recur? I tell you, I’ve met women who insist they’ve put their cancers behind them, and that I should, too, and it will be easy to do that if I just let go of my fears. Somehow, I just can’t do it. Every ache and pain convinces me that I’m sick again. Even when my oncologists tell me there’s no sign of a recurrence, I don’t believe them. I just think they haven’t looked hard enough. I have a feeling I’ll never get over this terrible thing that happened to me and my family. I certainly wish I could handle all this with at least a modicum of grace, but that doesn’t seem likely.

  5. Certainly, I have not learned how to put cancer behind me. I admire those that can, but I am not there yet. YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your feelings. PLUS, we are trained by medical professionals to constantly be on the lookout! We have been told of the odds of recurrence, to watch for recurrence, and then okay….get over it. Not possible for me yet, either! I UNDERSTAND!

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