“Time is the great healer.” ~ Proverb
As brutal as treatment was, in my experience, the worst was yet to come with the all consuming, inescapable fear of recurrence. It permeated every aspect of my life and I wondered if it would ever subside.
My hero, the person who gave me hope to fight to survive, was Lance Armstrong. He was the only example I knew who had been given a devastating prognosis after his cancer metastasized to his abdomen, brain and lungs and survived despite the odds. His story was what sparked my fire to achieve the same outcome.
I was beyond thrilled the evening I attended a fundraising event where Lance was the keynote speaker, and I, fresh out of treatment, got to ask him the question that burned within me.
“Does the fear of recurrence ever go away?”
At the time, he was 7 years cancer free and I had just embarked on that part of my journey. He told me that with time, it fades. That it doesn’t even cross his mind at this point. Envy flooded me as I stood with a smile plastered on my face. How I wished that I would feel that free one day.
His answer gave me reassurance but it was a long road to reach the point where the fear wasn’t always running in the background of my mind, clouding every minute of my days and nights.
Now that I have been cancer free for 19 years, I can tell you with certainty that my experience has been the same as his. I rarely think about it. Time really does heal.
Are there still episodes of fear? Yes. For instance, last year I had a spot on my right breast that required a biopsy. As I stood in the waiting room after the procedure, I broke down in tears. The scent of the hospital and the whole routine triggered a flashback, pulling me back to those days. I didn’t want to go through it all again. The days of waiting to hear the results were long and scary. In the end, they came back clear and I am fine.
But those are the exception now, not the norm.
The endless worry and fear does ease with time.
Life does return to normal.