A couple weeks back, I celebrated the sh*t out of being one year cancer-free. Previously, all my milestones and memories were about my diagnosis and treatment. Reflecting back on those brought forth some tough feelings that I’m still figuring out how to manage. Celebrating one year cancer free was my first super positive anniversary / milestone. And it felt so good to celebrate it! To top off my celebrations, I got some more good news: clear scans! But, per usual, I have more to talk about and I feel like writing tonight, so buckle up!
The last 10 days have been fairly typical for a skin cancer patient (and a metastatic melanoma survivor). I noticed a few moles on my shoulder that I thought were new. They were very close to the site of my original melanoma, so Mom thought it was best to have them biopsied. (Believe it or not, I was going to wait until I saw my dermo in September but my beloved Fam Bam told me that wasn’t acceptable). It’s been quite some time since I’ve left a piece of me at the dermatologist and I kind of forgot what it felt like. They were just shave biopsies, so nothing too intense and now I’m left with a few more scars to add to my list. The dermatologist told me not to lose sleep over them (she wasn’t too concerned and I pushed for the biopsies). For some people, this waiting game is extra stressful. But for me, the MRI and PET scan results are far more serious that waiting for these results didn’t stress me out too much. About a week later, I got a call that they were all benign - woo!
Then last Friday I spent the better part of my day up at the Mayo for my scanathon. With the ‘rona, it’s a little strange up there, but still oddly comforting? All 3 of my scans were scheduled back-to-back: first up the dueling MRIs followed by the PET. I actually had to wear a mask in the MRI machine this time and that definitely added a layer of discomfort. Per usual, the cardiac MRI seemed to take forever. But I didn’t cry this time, so I consider it a win. After I came home, I pretty much slept the entire afternoon, cause, well, Ativan, but it was nice.
Sunday morning I woke up to a notification on my phone that I had scan results in my portal. It was 5:30 AM and I was trying to decipher the medical language to see if I was all clear - and I was! I texted the Fam Bam immediately so they had some good news to wake up to.
Today, I saw my doctors for my follow up appointments. They’re very pleased (obviously) with how everything was going. We’re sticking on the 3 month schedule for now -- largely because I’m not ready to start stretching it out yet. Also, I was weirdly excited to tell them about my new dog named Nivo (yes, after the immunotherapy drug, Nivolumab). I’ll never get tired of a good cancer joke ;)
I also saw my therapist today and we got to talk about how far I’ve come. I know I talked about this in my last post, but I feel like I’ve been working really hard to figure out survivorship and it’s rewarding to be able to see how far I’ve come. When I got my NED news last July, clinically, I was doing great, but emotionally I was falling apart. Appointments dwindled down and I couldn't figure out how to transition from full-time cancer patient to full-time survivor. I had been in problem solving mode for the better part of a year but now I had a whole new slew of problems to figure out.
I’ve learned SO much about myself and what works for me to heal emotionally. There are so many people that broadcast their diagnosis, treatment, skin checks, etc. (including me) but people don’t talk about this part of the cAnCeR jOuRNey. Because this part is hard as shit and often an afterthought for so many cancer patients. If you looked at my life as a pie chart of priorities and values, cancer was the entire pie for what felt like forever. Over the last year, I had to learn how to fit it back into an appropriate-sized piece and rebuild and re-establish my other priorities.
I’m rambling now, but I guess what I’m trying to say I’m mega proud of myself. I conquered the beast that is stage IV cancer and I’ve officially navigated survivorship for one entire year. That feels so f*cking good! And, I busted out our favorite coloring book the night before my scans to relax, so enjoy ;)