Thursday, July 18, 2013

Remission and other cancer terms

(Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that the opinions expressed here are mine and relative to me alone.  I do not intend to belittle or negate others feelings or opinions related to their own cancer diagnoses or identities.)

sur·vi·vor [ser-vahy-ver]
1. a person or thing that survives.
2. Law. the one of two or more designated persons, as joint tenants or others having a joint interest, who outlives the other or others.
3. a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

As many of you know, while I was going through treatment, I didn’t care for the word survivor when referring to myself.  I still don’t think that I survived cancer (cue dramatic music) since I never really felt like my life was hanging in the balance.  Perhaps I was and I’m still in denial.  I didn’t need a special label; I knew I would survive whatever I had thrown at me.  Someday I won’t, but for now, I’m too stubborn to not survive. J

I never felt sick or ill before I was officially diagnosed with cancer.  I looked normal, felt normal, acted normal well, normal for me anyway. I had no idea that my body was losing a battle with cancer until we found the lump.  Even then, I felt fine; I just had a pesky lump in my breast.  While that pesky lump spread its pestilence to my lymph nodes and possibly beyond, I was oblivious.  I didn’t know that I was going to have to survive anything.

war·ri·or  (wôr-r, wr-)
1. One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.
2. One who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict

While I was trying to rid my body of the disease that has pervaded our lives for almost the past three years, I did consider myself a warrior.  A warrior is someone who fights for a cause.  My family, my medical team and I were fighting to get the cancer out of my body.  My cause was my family.  I was not “surviving”; I was too busy fighting and living.  I still am.  Yes, it is a simple semantic difference, between the words survivor and warrior, but one that I differentiate when talking about myself.

While going through treatment, I was not only a warrior but a patient as well.  As much as I don’t like it, I still am and continue to be a “cancer patient” for the next seven years despite the fact that I am now in remission.

re·mis·sion  (r-mshn)
1.                  a. The act of remitting.
b. A condition or period in which something is remitted.
2. A lessening of intensity or degree; abatement.
3.                  a. Medicine Abatement or subsiding of the symptoms of a disease.
b. The period during which the symptoms of a disease abate or subside.
4.                  a. Release, as from a debt, penalty, or obligation.
b. Forgiveness; pardon.

Remission is a wonderful word to a cancer patient.  Every additional year of remission is special; it’s one year further away from when one was sick.  And, it generally means that your likelihood of developing the disease again is lessened a little more. 

Because of the “advanced stage” of my disease at diagnosis and my age at diagnosis, the doctor’s will continue to monitor me for another seven years.  They do with everyone actually, but they are especially keen on keeping close tabs on me, not just because of my cancer staging and age, but because, after three years, they know how strong-willed and independent I am.  They want to make sure that nothing goes unchecked.

I’m a good girl and dutifully go in for my check-ups with my oncologist and my surgeon when they tell me to.  Most of the time, I feel fine; I feel “normal”.  I always hesitate to mention any little ache or pain to them.  It always turns out to be nothing or something very minor, not even related to my cancer diagnosis.  I should feel so loved by those family and friends that have ratted me out to my docs when I hold things back.  Instead, I feel stressed and annoyed that people are making such a fuss over things that are invariably minor in the grand scheme of things.  It bothers me that valuable resources are being wasted on me when there are others that truly have a need of all the tests that I’ve been put through for my little aches and pains since my cancer diagnosis. 

In the past four months I have been poked and prodded and scanned more than I ever was while going through cancer treatment.  I have had a full cardiac work-up, blood work, chest x-ray, bone scan, CT scan and MRI of my brain.  You know what they found?  I was diagnosed with reflux and sinusitis.  Like I told them, it was nothing major.  All that money and time… :-/

Now, I can hear the collective chastising: How could you say such things?  It’s because we love you and worry about you!  We just want to make sure you stick around for a good long time!  I know which of you I’ll probably get the emails from telling me exactly why it was important to go through all those silly tests.  I stand by my opinion though; it’s a waste of valuable resources.  I knew with each minor complaint that it was no big deal.  LOTS of people have reflux and sinusitis. 

I know my body and I know when something is wrong with it.  I wish other people would just trust me in that regard.  I know you all care about me but I really don’t like to worry people needlessly.  If it’s important, I’ll letcha know.  Honest.

** Postscript: I made it through two different courses of hardcore antibiotics to get rid of the reflux and my sinus infection.  While on the antibiotics I was true to form; I had many of the usual side effects (nausea, vomiting, headaches) and the less common side effects – numbness in my arm and hand and extreme fatigue.  The good news is that the reflux and my headaches are almost completely gone and my blurred vision is gone completely.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that you are feeling better. I'm also glad you did all the testing, even though you feel it was unnecessary. : ) Stay healthy chicka!