Friday, May 25, 2012

For 6 Weeks, I Had Cancer

Melanie Gaffney is a proud childhood cancer survivor, and a contributor to the Focus On Cancer blog. Today she is cancer-free, but lives with the after effects of her cancer treatments. 

As a cancer survivor, relapse and second cancers are always in the back of your mind. The thought of cancer coming back doesn’t rear its ugly head daily, but sometimes the idea of getting cancer again can stop you dead in your tracks.

I have been cancer free for a very long time. I’ve had a couple of scares, but have always come out on top. Just this past January, during a routine cardiology visit, my incredible physician, Dr. Joseph Carver, discovered a lump on my thyroid. It wasn’t visible to the eye on the outside, but it was there, just under the skin.

I sat there at the end of my exam and stared, listening to him tell me about this lump, and all I could hear was “cancer, cancer, cancer.” As he spoke, all I could think was: “How will I prepare my kids? How will I afford childcare during treatments? Will my 5-year-old son be scared and understand? Will I lose my hair?”

Dr. Carver’s words would penetrate my thoughts every now and then, but for the most part he was just a blur.

Learn more about the Abramson Cancer Center's Living Well After Childhood Cancer program.
Once I mentally came back to the room, I sat and listened. He told me: “Melanie, people find lumps and nodules on their thyroids all the time, and they turn out to be nothing. But, with your personal history, your chances of having cancer again are higher than average.”

He told me I’d need a biopsy, and as he discussed the next steps, I listened intently to every word. I knew that I had to do everything just right to make sure that if it was in fact cancer, I had the knowledge I needed to take care of myself and those around me.

After my appointment it was time to start to make the calls to my family to tell them what was going on. They weren’t easy calls to make - even though I only knew it was a lump –we all knew my chances of what it could be.

Because of my scheduling preferences, my appointment for a biopsy wasn’t for six weeks. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that they were the longest six weeks of my adult life. I went through the motions, work, home, kids, etc. without always focusing on it, but I would break down in tears every day, every single day.
For those six weeks I had cancer, or, I might as well have.

I have incredible people in my life, that change their plans to accommodate my appointments, who are there for me as soon as a I need them, who blindly support me and my family. My friends actually organized a dinner during those six weeks, to just celebrate our friendships and lives together. At that point, I knew that if I did have cancer again, I was going to be just fine regardless of the outcome.

The day came for my biopsy, I was ready; emotional but not scared, strong but humble. I was ready for whatever the results were going to be.

I got my results: 100 percent benign.

I had cancer for six weeks – in my head and in my soul and in my heart, I had cancer. But now, knowing I don’t, I am ready for whatever else being a survivor may throw at me.

I have a feeling this may be just the beginning, that more scares will come and there may be a time where I am not as lucky with the outcome, but until then….
I don’t have cancer.

No comments:

Post a Comment