In October 2011 I reached the 5 year mark. Cancer-free for five fabulous years! They certainly weren’t five worry-free years, by a long shot! Early last year my blood work started showing some changes. My Alkaline phosphatase levels were fluctuating. They would go higher than normal, at my next appointment would drop back to nearly normal again, only to raise fairly drastically the next go round. Very much like a roller coaster - a very not-fun roller coaster where I worried about liver or bone metastasis. Of course, I got my very permanent, very meaningful 5-year tattoo in October anyway because I’m very, very stubborn like that.
So, this morning I had my 3 month follow-up appointment with my wonderful Oncologist, Dr. Villa. She’s wonderful! Incredible! Awesome! I fully and completely credit her (and God, of course) with saving my life. I’ve even forgiven her for scaring the bejeebus out of me when I asked her what my recurrence risk was way back when in May of 2006. She didn’t even blink an eye when she said, “90%”. Jeez! You could sugar coat it a little, Lady!
Anyway, back to the appointment. I’ve been very glad to have one coming up since I’d developed some sensitivity in some of my lymph node areas. I’ve been losing sleep over it. At least I think that’s what has been disrupting my night-time routine. Maybe I’ve been worried. Maybe a little bit. Maybe. So, imagine my surprise when she walked in to the exam room and told me that she was going to consider me cured.
Wha? Huh? Did I miss something?
Yeah, you heard me right! The other “C” word.
Cured, as in, gone. No more cancer. Not ever.
OK. Am I the only one that thinks this might be a bit of calling up the devil? Scary stuff…
So she explained herself. First off, my rogue Alk Phos levels have returned to normal. In fact, my labs are “perfect”. <Insert pride and preening here> Then there’s those odds… the 90%… Turns out most of those turn out to recur in the first 18 months. Particularly the Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer patients, like me. However, turns out that a small percentage of Triple Negatives have cancers that are particularly susceptible to chemo. Women with this small percentage of Triple Negative cancer who manage to make it to the three, four and five-year marks also tend to never recur. Never.
Joyous of all words, that “never”.
So here I sit with 5 years and 3 months of cancer-freedom under my belt and a new “C” word behind my name.
Stella, cancer patient.
Stella, cancer survivor.
Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer