It’s a good thing to do in the new year but it’s especially a good thing to do when you are heading into 2016 FREE FROM BREAST CANCER!!! And boy did I need a reset. From the time I was diagnosed on May 7 to the time of my mastectomy on July 7, all I saw was forward and how everything seemed to be falling into place. There was this amazing alignment and synchronicity that allowed me to walk with such certainty. In reflection, I can see now that this was part of my survival mode. That was really all I could see. I needed that so I found it.
Then this fall there seemed to be an onslaught of media attention regarding the questioning the treatment of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ – my diagnosis). Well, that sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Suddenly, doubt came rearing its ugly head and the ground beneath me felt shaky.
My last appointment with my phenomenal oncologist Dr. Nathalie Johnson occurred about 1 week post mastectomy. She shared with me the wonderful news that because my margins were clear and all my pathology testing indicated that I was cancer free, I would have no more follow up. Fantastic! But really? No follow up? Nothing? That’s it? It’s over? Did it all really even happen? Boom. Doubt. Again.
Last Friday my husband and I scheduled a follow up appointment with Dr. Johnson so that when BC survivors say to me, “really no follow up?” Instead of having that pang of doubt, I can say, “yes. It may sound strange but this is why…” Or when a well-meaning relative sends me an article about the over-treatment of DCIS, I can say “here is what I know and understand”.
Dr. Johnson did all that for me and more. She shared that the study that needs to be done is of women with DCIS who have decided not to treat. While that study has not yet been done, she shared with me antidotally that
in every single case of DCIS that she has ever treated where the woman has decided to not treat, they have returned with invasive Breast Cancer – and some of them have died.
Every single case. I burst into tears. The doubt slipped away. I felt my feet under me. She didn’t just hug me…she held me. I am forever grateful that I have an Oncologist who can hold me in so many ways.
Dr. Johnson reminded me that my mass was 7 cm large. I reminded myself that my Grandma Beatrice died at age 35. Dr. Johnson stated that she has no doubt that had I waited several years, maybe months for that Mammogram, I would be looking at a very different treatment protocol – and be treating invasive cancer and be having very different follow up. I looked at my husband with tears in his eyes, and in that look, I knew that we had made the right decision.
“DCIS is the hardest diagnosis emotionally”, Dr. Johnson shared. She said that we hear how “lucky” we are but that we still have to go through everything someone with invasive cancer goes through – the doubt, fear, unknown, and the treatment. Again, so validating for me to hear this. In my best moments, I hold those together – I do feel lucky – amazingly so. And this journey has been difficult. They can exist together.
As AJ and I walked out of Dr. Johnson’s office, I literally felt lighter. I am sure doubt will emerge again as it is a close cousin of fear and fear is related to the unknown and so much of this journey reeks of all of the above…as does life of course. But for me, when I stand in certainty and align myself with the choices I’ve made, I feel a sense of momentum rather than stuckness. I feel reset and ready to walk into 2016 truly free from Breast Cancer.