Before treatment ended, I remember being so confident that my life was about to go back to normal and I wouldn’t be the type of person who worried about recurrence. Well, I quickly learned that neither of those things were true. There was no returning to my previous version of normal, just this ‘new normal’ that everyone speaks of. And I did worry about recurrence – more than I’d like to admit.
I worried about recurrence in specific moments though, and these moments happened frequently during the first year and a half of survivorship. My worry wasn’t entirely unwarranted but rather, I had real physical issues that kept arising and I had no idea if they were part of my ‘new normal’ or if these issues were a sign that the cancer was back. It was impossible to discern unless I frequently went to see doctors, so that is exactly what I did.
I took every new symptom seriously and I wanted to ensure if it was cancer, that I’d catch it early. And if it wasn’t, well, I wanted to feel better too. There were the chronic and severe headaches that gifted me with a CT scan, many neurology appointments, medications and physical therapy. There was that one day when all of a sudden, after a few weeks of weird symptoms, I felt weak, dizzy, had tunnel vision and a metallic taste in my mouth. I wasn’t able to do anything other than sleep that day and I had never experienced those types of systems before. It was scary but an EEG ruled out seizure activity.
Shortly after these weird symptoms, my oncologist ordered a PET scan to rule out a recurrence and give me peace of mind, only to find a mass on my liver. I spent a few days anxious as could be before the subsequent CT scan revealed that it was a benign, incidental finding. There was the random hip pain that landed me with an orthopedist getting an X-ray. And so on and so on. A year and a half, give or take, of one thing after another. It felt endless.
Whether all of these issues were the result of cancer, or cancer treatment, or something else entirely, all I knew is that I never had issues like this before. This, I guess, was my ‘new normal’ and I had to learn to live with it.
Slowly, over time, my physical symptoms became more spread out and I worry less and less these days. Every time there’s a new symptom though, I always wonder… Could this be the day my life turns upside down again? Is the rug about to be pulled out from under me? Cancer is always lingering in the back of my mind and I’m not sure that will ever change. As long as it isn’t in the forefront though, I think I’ll be okay. One day at a time.