Beverly McKee MSW, LCSW

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cancer freeAfter surviving the eye of the storm, I was exhausted physically and emotionally.  Out of nowhere, came the biggest, brightest rainbow that I’ve seen since the day I was diagnosed:  no cancer in any of the 22 lymph nodes:
I AM CANCER FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hugged my husband through tears, called my mom, sister, fellow survivors and friends.  My oldest son did a “mom is cancer free” dance and my youngest hugged me and cheered.  I felt overwhelming relief and joy...and yet a sense of disbelief and underlying fear that the news might not be true.
I saw my surgical oncologist the following Monday and was nervous about the appointment.  What if she told me that the test results were wrong?  Or there was something else wrong.  Dr. Oruwari walked in with the biggest smile on her face and gave me a hug!  She was celebrating the pathology report and no cancer in the lymph nodes.  I asked her if I was cancer free and she gave me the answer that all oncologists seem to have for me:  ”As far as we can tell, you do not have cancer.  We can never tell for sure if it will come back, but at this point, you are cancer free.”
Breast cancer is unique in that there aren’t any blood tests that truly determine that the cancer is gone.  They can watch for changes in certain areas of blood work that suggest the cancer may have metastasized (moved to the other parts of the body) but no one test says you are totally cancer free.  They can also do MRI’s, cat scans, etc if blood work suggests a problem, but cancer won’t show up on the imaging until it has grown to a certain point.  I really wanted a more definitive answer.  I want to see it on paper, in black and white:  “Beverly, you are cancer free.”
I know I’m not alone.  I have talked to and read about many other women feeling the same way when told they are cancer free.  Many women struggle the most when their journey through treatment is completed.  You can finally take a deep breath and relax and the reality of having cancer hits you.
I suppose that’s why I have been a bit reluctant to celebrate whole heartedly.  I’m also recovering from surgery and have a drain connected to my underarm...that doesn’t help.  At this point, I am focusing on recovering and getting started with radiation.  I see my radiation oncologist in two days to do the preliminary work...six weeks of radiation to start next week.  My excitement is building as I see end of treatment in sight.  Actually, writing this blog today has helped me let go of some of that hesitation and feel more excited than I’ve felt all week.  I hope that my fellow survivors can read this and realize that there is no right or wrong way to feel at any point in the journey.
Reality is setting in:  I am cancer free!!!!!!!!  Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for reading!
Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW
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