I’m waiting for the results of a bone scan that I did today. My shoulder is still giving me trouble, and my doctors decided to do a full-body bone scan. Waiting to hear if my breast cancer has metastasized is worse than waiting to hear if I have cancer. The diagnosis of breast cancer is treatable. The diagnosis of a metastatic breast cancer is not treated, only managed. Metastasis is when a cancer spreads to a different part of the body, which is also called stage 4. From what I have gathered, breast cancer can typically spread to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.
Metastasis is what I am most afraid of. Sure I have been afraid from time to time in my life, but I have never lived and breathed fear. Anxiety is a side effect of cancer treatment that I didn’t anticipate. I really didn’t even know what anxiety was. In my first appointment with a therapist she asked what my anxiety level was, and I said I wasn’t struggling with anxiety and she responded that she could see my anxiety. I didn’t know it’s name was anxiety, but I felt like I had lost the ability to control my emotions and thoughts. It also feels like the earth is wobbling beneath my feet, and I can’t find my balance or my center. Completing tasks like getting through a stack of bills or decluttering the kitchen counter can feel impossible and put me in a tailspin.
I have been having anxiety attacks that last a few days, and they typically reoccur once a month. I go into a sustained panic attack before starting any new treatment (chemo, surgery #1, radiation, surgery #2, starting tamoxifen, starting arimadex, starting the everolimus clinical trial). I can add a new one onto the list of triggers–scans. I was scanned before I was diagnosed, but I was sure it was a waste of everyone’s time and if they could just drain that infected milk duct, I could be on my way. I was scanned after chemo and before my mastectomy, but I was sure that the chemo had wiped any trace of cancer from my body just as it had every hair on my body.
The tricky thing about my cancer, other than the fact that it was huge and scary and didn’t respond to chemo, is that it didn’t show up on those scans. So while I am getting scanned I don’t know if I should be praying for a clean scan, or praying that the scan works and shows me something if it’s there. If it has spread, do I want to know and spend the rest of my life heavily medicated and fighting this, or do I want to keep living my life and planning my future?
People keep telling me that I’m handling this so well, “you’re such an inspiration” they say, but the reality is that is only on my good days. When I told my husband I was going to write about anxiety he told me to mention that he also struggles with my anxiety. I can tell him that I’m going into a dip and to be careful with me–but it seems like no matter what he does or doesn’t do, he’s the one who has to pick up the pieces.
My doctor just called- the bone scan was clear!!!! haleluya, haleluya, I don’t know how to spell it but haleluya, thank you beautiful universe.