This is the fifth installment of the Fear of Recurrence series, written by Carla Doyle:
PINK!! Five years ago, the color rarely found in my wardrobe or home, now defines me. It’s on my license plate, in my closet (a lot!), on my flip flops, rings, candles, paper towels. That unmistakable pink ribbon. Why? Mostly because it reminds me of my journey. And it gives me strength by reminding me I am one of the lucky ones…a survivor!
July 2004 began a new chapter in my life. One filled with sadness, fear, joy, and mostly gratitude. I mistakenly thought the journey would be complete once the surgery, chemo, radiation were over. It truly had just begun. Returning to a new “normal” meant dealing with the ups and downs of emotions. No longer consumed by physical battles, meant more time to think. Which of course led to the ultimate unanswerable question…would my cancer come back?
Some days I reveled in the joy of just being alive. Some days I wallowed in the fear of being blind sided again. There was no rhyme or reason to when either feeling would seem to emerge from nowhere. A rainy, dreary day could be a good day. A bright, sunny day could be the opposite. And often, it was moment to moment.
I have learned to trust in myself, my doctors, my husband, my family, my friends. We made it through once. If necessary, we would do it again. I used to think a cancer diagnosis was my biggest fear. Now I realize, my greatest fear is having cancer and NOT knowing it. Staying informed helps. Not allowing the world of cancer to consume my life helps too. There’s a fine line for me between the two.
So for now, I mindfully focus on what life brings…the good and the bad. If I don’t allow myself to mourn the loss of a loved one or embrace the birth of a granddaughter, then I’ve let cancer beat me. If I don’t laugh with friends, take walks with my husband, enjoy life’s big events and small moments then I’ve allowed fear to consume me. The fear of recurrence will always be present. It can’t be ignored. It must be faced and dealt with.
Being a survivor is a privilege. I honor that in my own way…by offering support to newly diagnosed women, keeping myself physically and emotionally healthy, and collecting all those pink ribbons to help me remember.
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