There were some fascinating inter-related but completely independent conversations amongst cancer survivor friends of mine this week that triggered an interesting cross-section of thoughts.
A few days ago, a very thoughtful friend of mine reached out to me, hoping I would at least consider doing annual MRI scans, knowing that I had hopped off of the "scanwagon" after I reached 5 years out from good risk testicular cancer last year. A doctor we both know couldn't imagine not having at least an annual scan done, but I smiled and politely said no. I really do appreciate that this person was thinking of me like this, and it's very sweet to know that friends of mine do actually worry about me. :)
On that same topic, another group of survivor friends were discussing an article I had written a few years ago, comparing cancer surveillance scans to emergency landings in planes, and repeatedly having to subject yourself to that mental trauma over and over again, feeling so helpless without any control. We're lucky. We're cured and not six feet under, right, so we shouldn't complain, somebody always has it worse, went the conversation. But it's dismissive, said another friend. We never really know if our cancers are truly gone or not, and it doesn't mean that our lives are "easy". Most of the time we'll be fine, but there's always that chance that we'll careen off the runway and burst into a massive fireball, or not even make the runway and crash into the woods or the river. You brace as you descend below a hundred feet, not knowing what's going to happen and feeling so helpless, and that's your whole life right there, that moment of sheer helplessness. And guess what? You get to do that shit all over again next month, and the month after that, and the month after that.
It all reminded me of why I'm not even doing annual scans anymore. Because FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All of these scans just completely broke me, that's why. They completely broke me as a person, having to voluntarily subject myself to the same repeating emotional trauma over and over again. I've been broken enough. I don't need to be broken anymore unless there's a good reason to be. Just the thought of having to do more cancer scans brings all of those feelings of having been so broken right back to the surface. I just couldn't do it anymore, and so I'm not. Fuck it.
Granted, my tune would change if I'd had advanced stage disease in a higher risk category. I do firmly believe that those that had advanced stage testicular cancer should be followed at least annually for life, but I luckily didn't. Not only was I "merely" good risk, but I did both primary chemotherapy and the primary lymph node dissection surgery by one of the top doctors in the world for that surgery, thus bottoming out the odds of ever having a late recurrence. If I'd left that 1.4cm lymph node, maybe my tune would be a bit different also, but no. At the time, when I was fighting, if there was even one fucking little sleeping cancer cell left in there that would come back and try to kill me again one day, I just wanted it gone. And so I did the RPLND surgery, and boy did it cost me, but I did it. So no more scans for me, thank you very much. I'm still getting an annual blood tumor marker check and a scrotal ultrasound on the remaining side with my annual physical, which is, enough. More oncology office visits though? No. Fuck that shit. I'm done. I just couldn't do it anymore, and so I'm not.
I'm at a place in life right now where I just need to move on and forget about all of this shit that's happened in my life. The reason I sat down at my computer night after night and just BLED into the keyboard like crazy, is because I needed to get this out of me, it helped to heal me, I knew it would be a huge help to others, and knew there would come a day when I would overcome all of this spiritually, and that finally, I would start to FORGET. And that's where I'm at now. I've forgotten all of this for awhile, and it needs to stay forgotten for awhile. I can't read much of my own writing right now, about scanxiety, or about PTSD, because it takes me back to such unbelievably dark and painful times.
Looking back on this, and these times, I can't tell you how unbelievably good it feels to NOT BE BACK THERE again. Doing scans again, even an annual MRI, would put me back there. It's the wrong direction I need to be going in, and just notfuckinghappening dot com. ;)