Those are real women. Just like me. And, I bet that they felt really positive and encouraged as they went through chemo and radiation the first time — the fight was almost over. I bet most of them never expected to have to go through chemo a second or third time. I mean, who walks into a cancer fight thinking they are going to lose, right?
So that devil on my shoulder asks me …
“What makes me so different from any of those women? Why will my outcome be different?”
And I see things like the American Cancer Society stats that say the survival rate for someone with regional disease is 84 percent. Larger tumor size is also associated with decreased survival. For example, 5-year survival is 63 percent for tumors greater than 5.0 cm. The 5-year survival rate is 84 percent for women diagnosed before the age of 40.
In the middle of bad statistics
I technically have regional disease. My tumor was 5.2 cm. I'm below the age of 40.
I'm right in the middle of the bad part of those statistics.
Since drama is not my comfortable state, I feel really dumb being there. Go sit in a cancer hospital for a little while. It will take you about two minutes to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know that firsthand. I'm so very aware that there are so many people who are fighting a harder fight than I am. For instance, my aching radiated breast was really painful as we walked to appointments at M.D. Anderson a couple of weeks ago, but it was nothing compared to the young man sitting next to me in the lab. He had lost his leg.
That makes me feel even more dumb for being dramatic. Those people would love to be in my seat — only having to deal with 16 weeks of chemo and seven weeks of radiation compared to their two or three years of fighting. Who am I to complain?
So, it is a hard place to be, because I feel so lucky and unlucky all at the same time. I feel so blessed, but leery about feeling too blessed.
I think that the further I get down this road, the easier it will be for my angel to keep the devil in his place. I'll always wonder if the cancer is sneaking up behind me, but the logical (angel) side reminds me that I have given my body quite a beating this year in an effort to protect myself from it. I've done my best. The odds are in my favor.
The logical (angel) side reminds me that even though those statistics I mentioned above aren't fantastic (large, hard-to-detect tumors with escalating chance of recurrence), I had very little lymph node involvement and it appears not to have spread. Plus, I have mostly lobular cancer while most younger women have ductal, which tends to be more aggressive. My prognosis is good, all things considered.
The logical (angel) side tells me that chances are high that this cancer is gone forever. It also tells me that if I play out the “what-ifs,” and IF it comes back, this past year has proved that I have a support system that cannot be rivaled.
That, alone, gives me peace.
MORE FROM NEWSOK
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today's story is from a local cancer patient's blog written Sept. 18, with excerpts from throughout the year. Jenny Herzberger is married to Alan Herzberger, NewsOK's digital managing editor. Read her blog at TheHerzyJourney.com.