The Fear of Cancer Recurrence

Cancer recurrence is never far from your mind once you have become a Cancer Survivor.  Some survivors say it gets better with time.  Other survivors say, it gets more pronounced.  But it is necessary to talk about so both Cancer Survivors and friends and family know how to deal with it.

Recently, I found 2 lumps in my Mastectomy breast.  The whole scenario goes on in your head – oh, it must be cancer, no it can’t be cancer and the arguments begin.  Today I had my first appointment with my Medical Oncologist since completing Radiation.  Of course, I had to fess up about the lumps even though they examine you thoroughly.  Both my Oncologist and Nurse Practitioner thought they were scar tissue.  I thought they were as well – just a gut feeling.  Relief sets in once again.

Sometimes people will say, “Oh any day we could have a heart attack and die.”  That is very true.    That’s a nice generic statement for those who have not stared death in the face, and those statements usually come from someone who has always been healthy.   It is a statement that is not part of their reality at this point in their life.

Being a Cancer Survivor feels like you have been hit by a train you did not see coming.  Your body and your life are torn to shreds by this train.  Gradually, piece by piece your body and your life are put back together again.  Your life is not what it was before, but it has great possibilities nonetheless.  The terror comes because you fear that train will come back and mow you down again.  Especially because you are always being given statistical information on how likely it will happen by medical professionals that you trust.  You are definitely not sure you have the strength to live through it again, as you barely made it the first time.  You already know and have experienced what being hit by that train feels like.

If you are a friend or family member of a Cancer Survivor, don’t try to make light of their fears.  They are real.  Simply say statements like “It must be challenging to live with those fears”   “That has to be a source of much pain for you”  or “I cannot imagine being in that situation”.

As a Cancer Survivor, I cannot suppress the reality  of my situation.  It means learning to live in this moment, cancer free, and not worry about tomorrow.  I am trying to learn that new reality.



  1. I have been on automatic pilot pretty much since my diagnosis and especially over the past few weeks. I have a feeling the fears are going to hit like a freight train when I have time to really be alone with my thoughts. Thanks for the reminder that it is perfectly normal.

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