Fear of Metastasis (Mets)
A diagnosis of breast cancer is a very frightening, very devastating event in a woman's life. The very first thoughts that enter the mind, after shock and disbelief, are "I'm going to die. How long do I have to live?" Much progress has been made toward prolonging the life of a woman with breast cancer. Some women are in remission for years. In some instances, remission may last a lifetime. However and unfortunately...though treatments continue to advance...there is no cure for cancer. We feel somewhat safe, as long as treatments are being administered to "kill the cancer" but then the day comes when the treatment is over and the thought turns to, "Now what do I do?" The mind begins to wander aimlessly to the dark thoughts...the thoughts that allow you to believe that every single little ache and pain is a recurrence of cancer...no matter where in your body the ache or pain occurs. Prior to breast cancer, you got a little ache or pain and you didn't pay much attention to it. Life, as you knew it, has changed. Unfortunately, life, as you knew it, will never totally be the same.
So many times we think about how wonderful it would be just to feel normal again. We pick ourselves up and adjust to the "new" normal. The challenge of constantly adjusting to "new" normals becomes so great that we sometimes lose site of what our true normal really was anymore. It is hard to have faith that we will ever feel normal again. I didn't think it was possible. It took me 2.5 five years and I am pleased to say that aside from remnants of body stiffness, I am feeling somewhere near the normal I once remembered. I know that I will probably never feel totally normal again, but near normal is something that I have learned to be happy to accept.
After diagnosis and treatment, many challenges will be presented to you. In adjusting to your "new" normal, you will have to deal with the mental challenge of sorting every single ache and pain into "need to see the doc" and "no need to worry about this". That will be the challenge of your "new" normal. Every bump, rash, headache, eye ache, bone pain, bruise, swelling...no matter where it is, will send you to the depths of hell and back before you can get a grip on yourself, in an effort to make an intelligent "talk to yourself" decision as to whether it is innocent or not. That is a hard way to have to live; however, I can promise you that as time goes on, the fear lessens. The unwritten rule is, if the symptom lasts for two weeks, or more, you need to contact your physician.
Fear of test results will send you to a new hell. As test day approaches, you become nervous. You want to know if you are still doing okay or doing better, but you fear what the doc may have to tell you. You are caught between wanting to know and not wanting to know. You complete the tests and then you have to wait and wait and then wait some more. It is enough to rattle your whole being. You return home from work on a Friday evening and wouldn't you know it...there's a message from the Oncologist's office asking you to phone them on Tuesday, because, of course, Monday is a holiday. So you suffer through days of agonizing and fear of what your doc has to tell you.
Fear of metastasis can be mentally debilitating. You just have to learn to look at it differently; not as a death sentence, but as another hoop you have to jump through to get back into remission. When my mind starts venturing into the dark thought areas of metastasis, I bring myself back by once again realizing that should mets occur, there will be SOME treatment they can give me that will either put me back into remission or keep me going for a good while. My goal would be to get far enough down the line that something new comes out that will allow me to get even a little further on down the line, and so on...until the disease can be managed. It is unfortunate that we had to be diagnosed with breast cancer, at all, but being that we have...we were diagnosed in a good time period, where better progress is being made toward management of the disease. I have read where many people have thought that the reason no cure for cancer has been found is because it is a huge money maker. I would think that more money would be made by managing the disease, long term, rather than short term treatments.
Aside from other bc sisters, no one has an inkling as to what we are going through, so when that unknowing "haven't been there" friend or relative tells you not to worry "You've been cured" chalk it up to ignorance and move on. Always remain in tuned to your body and investigate what falls outside of your "new" normal. And remember...many women with mets go on to live many, many, years. Sending many blessings to those of you battling mets. Here's to finding the cure.
Disclaimer: Information presented within the pages of this website is, for the most part, that of my opinion and for informational purposes only and not to be used in place of the advice of your medical provider. You are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of your medical provider and to conduct your own research on any topic of interest, for fact finding.