Tomorrow is the day I report for a visit with my radiation oncologist, the woman who designed and delivered my radiation therapy, those 30 some daily sessions that blasted the site of my tumor in order to prevent a local recurrence of breast cancer. So far, its doing its job. My cancer has not returned.
I return for radiation follow-ups every six months. I get weighed, my arms get measured to check for swelling caused by lymphedema, my breasts get manipulated by several sets of hands, and I get a chance to report any new symptoms, to ask any pressing questions. I don’t have either at this time.
This appointment is not really a big deal anymore. Except that when I really think about it, it actually is. There’s a lot at stake as I present myself before the medical students, residents, fellows, and doctors who will study me. There’s a chance they may find something suspicious, after all. And if they do, the could-it-be-cancer? wheels will start in motion. The prospect of that stings a bit.
My gut tells me that I am fine, that my cancer is long gone, that I’ll walk away from my appointment as confident and happy as I’ll be when I arrive for it. My gut has served me well throughout my cancer years. If it’s on target as usual, then I will be well. And I won’t have to worry about this high-stakes visit for another six months. Well, not exactly.
I also see my medical oncologist—also known as my chemo doctor—every six months. The same basic scenario occurs—substitute blood work for arm measurements—on a different time schedule and in a different office. Also not a huge deal anymore.
Except that when I really think about it, it is.