Cancer & Reality Checks

Last month it was time once again for my six-month oncology checkup with oncologist number four. Due to various circumstances, I’ve had five different oncologists. I’m now back with number 4. Number four is a keeper. I’ll have to write about why this is true sometime.

I go about my business day in and day out thinking about cancer, but at the same time sort of separating myself from the beast if this makes any sense. This is a sanity-saving subconscious mind skill of some kind I’ve learned I suppose.

I think about cancer every single day. For many reasons, I doubt there will ever be a day from here on out that I do not think about cancer. I write about cancer. I blog and follow blogs about cancer. I read books and articles about cancer. I live with a fair amount of cancer treatment collateral damage. Then there are the scars; the ones that can be seen and the ones that cannot. Like most cancer patients, I think about recurrence, but I certainly don’t dwell on the possibility. Directly or indirectly, cancer’s on my mind, a lot. But sometimes it’s not.

As I’m going about my life, I do forget about cancer sometimes; but then, of course, it hits me. I remember and think, OMG, it’s true. I was diagnosed with cancer.

It’s almost like whenever I “forget”, cancer likes to give me a jab as if to say, don’t get too comfortable. I’m still hovering and you’re still a marked woman.

Reality check.

Six-month oncology check-ups are reality checks and then some.

The moment you walk through any cancer center’s doors as a present or past cancer patient, reality hits, not unlike a slap to the face. You’re forced to admit to yourself all over that you’re one of ‘those people’  –  a cancer patient. Many cancer centers even have separate cancer patient entrances (which I appreciate by the way), so it’s like you’re in a whole different classification of patients. You are separated, quite literally, from the “others”.

Walking through those cancer doors was a sobering realization that first day dear hubby and I walked through them. It still is.

When you’re on the “outside” you can sometimes convince yourself that things are sort of back to normal. You might even begin to believe you’ve adjusted reasonably well. You’ve adapted. You’ve handled cancer. You’ve managed to keep it all together somehow. Sure, you’re worn down more than a bit, but you’re still standing.

And then there you are walking through those doors again, or experiencing whatever trigger it might be for you at that particular moment in time and boom, you’re back to that place you were on “that day” it all started. And you remember.

You were/are a cancer patient.

Reality check.

What is one of your reality checks?

Do you think about cancer every day?

If you’re metastatic, how do you manage the constant reality checks?

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19 thoughts to “Cancer & Reality Checks”

  1. Hi Nancy,

    What is one of your reality checks? A full room length reflective surface, now typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image of my multiple scars and oddly shaped disfigurement.

    Do you think about cancer every day? Yeah, I do think about cancer each and every day. Much like you do, I don’t dwell on it.

  2. The scans are hard, and then getting the results are even more difficult. Also it’s a bit of a slap when cancer makes itself felt in the body. None of it is easy, and all of it happens too often.

    Buttt….well. My reality checks are days when I look at myself in the mirror and see this pretty young woman looking back. Or when I launch into a project that feeds my love for writing. Or when my husband accomplishes something in his career. Those are the checks that I live by – the normal, beautiful, cancer-free moments of life. That’s my real life, and those moments are my reminders.

    1. Catherine, I love the way you flipped this. Real life beautiful moments – the kind of reality checks we want and need. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

  3. I agree that scans and waiting for results are big reality checks. I also have “moments” when I see my husband and daughter together and I wonder when I won’t be with them any longer. I wonder how they will cope. Will they have happy days? Will they be able to talk through their disagreements? I don’t enjoy my “moments.” Not at all.

    1. Kate, I’m sorry you have to have those moments. Reality checks for anyone living with mbc are in a whole different league. xxx

  4. I’m having one of those days tomorrow… it’s my 6-month checkup. Blood work is done and waiting.

    I hate walking through those separate cancer center doors too. But at the same time I’m grateful I walk in of my own accord; so many inside are in wheelchairs.

    I try and forget about cancer as much as I can too (despite the fact that I am inundated with it daily via my blog and keeping up with BC news and studies and of course my BC blogosphere peeps! xo

    1. Renn, I hope your appointment went well. And yes, dear hubby says to me every single time we walk through those doors, “Well, remember you’re walking through them on your own power.” Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll check in at your blog soon to see how things went. xx

  5. I feel like you were in my head when you wrote this piece. Reality, unfortunately, is my daily dose lately. I wonder if I’ll ever stop worrying.

    1. Cindy, I don’t think the worry ever ends, not completely anyway. You learn how best to live with it, manage it and keep it tucked away or at least pushed aside as much as possible. Thanks for reading, commenting and understanding.

  6. Hi Nancy,

    This post really hit home. There are so many reality checks. Like you, I think about cancer every day, but I don’t dwell. One huge reality check is when I see my bilateral mastectomy or axillary node dissection scars. Dressed I look like everybody else. No one can tell the hell I endured. But when the clothes come off, so does the facade.

    Seeing my oncologist sets off triggers. I try to be cheerful, or at least calm, but it doesn’t always work.

    1. Beth, I hear you loud and clear. The reality checks are there each and every day. And yes, seeing one’s oncologist most definitely is a biggie. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  7. Oh my. You and I certainly were going through similar experiences this month. I have my 6 month oncologist checkup on the 23rd and of course, have been (as you noted in your comment) doing a real job on myself lately about cancer. So weird, the front door to your cancer center looks very similar to the one I go to in Hunterdon County, NJ. Great post, I can clearly relate. Hugs.

    1. Claudia, I have a feeling many of the front doors have a similar look to them…Cancer reality checks are always there to remind us, as if we could ever forget, right? Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re right, we have been dealing with similar thoughts and such. Good luck with your upcoming appointment.

  8. I think I will forever associate Stanford with cancer now. I always felt that I’d have some relationship with Stanford – I just thought it might be as a post-doc or professor, not as a patient …
    I too appreciate the separate entrance. Actually I like the women’s cancer center much more than the larger cancer center … lots of people with compromised immune systems walking (or being wheeled) around … makes me think I’m sick …

  9. As a metavivor, reality checks are part of everyday. Whether it’s taking chemo; monitoring my water intake to minimize side effects; checking my daily schedule to manage energy levels; or (Praise God!!!!) hearing the words, “Everything’s stable, see you in 6 weeks.” from my oncologist; EVERY day has reminders. For now, I’m blessed to be this healthy (I don’t look sick) and my general mantra is: “While I can, I will.” I’m no longer working, which is also a daily reality check. All this to say: I’M ALIVE! I’m able to spend time with friends and family. I’m able to drive myself and walk into my cancer center without assistance. So, cancer is just part of my “new normal”.

    1. Andi, Yes, as a metavivor, the reality checks are ‘in your face’ every day and many times a day. My husband always reminds me every time I go to our cancer center that I am walking in under my own power. So yes, that’s nothing to take for granted. Thanks for reading and sharing. My best to you.

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