For the first time since November 2008 I have no letters in the ‘hospital appointments’ file! This won’t last long because within about a week I’ll receive the appointment for this time next year, but it still feels like a hard-earned freedom. A far cry from the times last year when there were at least half a dozen upcoming appointment letters in the file.
The empty file is the result of my check-up this week. The report on my mammogram said that “only post-treatment changes” showed up and the examination revealed no unexpected problems. So now I can move to a single annual check-up and mammogram. First it was three monthly, then four, this year it has been two appointments. I still have open access in between appointments if necessary, which gives me a safety net(physical and psychological) should I need one.
My clinic appointment was for 4.10pm and the clinic was, it goes without saying, running late. A sharp contrast with mammogram appointments which seem to run to time and if you turn up early they will often see you ahead of time. Expecting to wait, I’d taken an absorbing book with me but then had a chat with someone I’d seen in the same clinic last year (worryingly her appointment time was an hour before mine) and discussed whether or not we dared turn up late based on experience – the answer was “no”, just in case they were running to time and we were then pushed to the end of the day. I also spent some time thinking about the women I’ve met both in person and virtually over the whole BC thing.
It was wonderful to hear good news and until I did, I don’t think I had really realised just how stressed I’d been about it. Perhaps it was that time in the waiting room where the stress built; at the very least it made it much worse.
I seem to find planning ahead difficult in the few weeks between the mammogram and the rest of the check-up. In the first year I found any planning ahead difficult. Year Two was rather disrupted by the genetics and ovarian screening study, not to mention getting my arm/shoulder movement back, and was more about planning around so many appointments than anything else. Generally this year has felt more relaxed, so when this autumn the Storm Riders were planning for a November 2012 get together, I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t fully realise the significance at the time; it was only last week when I was having difficulty making plans for early January on the basis of “what if …” that I remembered that only weeks before I’d been planning for a year ahead.
So here I am, entering another year post-diagnosis and having taken another step forward. Okay, for the next few years the end of November and early December are probably not going to be the best time for planning ahead, but outside that window it all looks more promising. Fatigue is still an issue and I have problems with joints, there are other medication side effects, BUT I am feeling much better all round than I did a year ago. I even noticed while curling the other week that I seem to have regained a bit of my (admittedly never good) sense of balance and have become used to the difference in the left/right weight distribution.
As I reach this three year mark with no evidence of disease (our dear friend NED) I am very aware that some of those I’ve met going through this have not been so fortunate. Some are dealing with recurrence, second primaries or metastatic disease. And it goes without saying that Cat, who died only a few months ago, is very much on my mind this week, together with her family. She was a great support when we did radiotherapy together and I feel that in some way I owe it to her, and to so many others, not to take life for granted but to get on with living it to the full here in the Land of New Normal, whatever this land throws at me.