Over the past couple of months, I have been treated for basal cell carcinoma on my face. While having a MOHS procedure on the first lesion, the surgeon noted a spot on my chin that he said he wanted to biopsy when I had my second surgery done. I couldn’t remember a time not having this odd little spot on my chin. I never thought much about it because it wasn’t that noticeable. During my second MOHS he felt it was “highly” suspicious and went ahead and biopsied it.
My results were due back in 7-10 days. On day 7, I was already becoming anxious. On day 8, I returned to the office to have my stitches removed and while the nurse was in the room I asked her to check for the results. Still not available. Two weeks after the biopsy was done, I sent a message to the office. Still no results. At this point the (usually) maintained hypochondriac oncology nurse in me is freaking out. I call the office on day 18 and leave a message. I finally get the call later that afternoon. The biopsy was benign.
I cried harder after hanging up than I did when I was diagnosed but for a completely different reason. Relief. Sweet relief. I whispered to myself, “I am cancer free.” I was not expecting the lesion to be benign. In my head I was already trying to decide if I should get my next MOHS procedure while on maternity leave or if I should wait until I returned to work. But who wants to sit around with cancer on their face? But did I want to miss those special moments at home with a new baby? And now all of a sudden, I didn’t have to think about those decisions. I was cancer free.
As simply glorious as this news is, I’m also trying to be realistic. It doesn’t seem to happen that once you are deemed cancer free that you will actually have freedom from the disease. You will have follow-up appointments, scans, long-term side effects, scars, and emotional baggage such as fear of recurrence that you will be left to deal with. Being free of cancer is amazing, but it’s not the freedom that an outsider may assume that it is.
Although you may not have complete freedom from cancer there are steps you can take to gain back some control over your life. There are steps that you can take to help prevent your cancer from recurring. For me, it will be the use of sunscreen every single day. You can lose weight, make changes to your diet, quit smoking, etc. Taking preventative steps are not sure fire ways to prevent your cancer from coming back but changing your life can help you feel more powerful over cancer.
It is also very important to go to your follow-up appointments and ensure that your provider is aware of any changes in your health. If you’ve been through cancer once, you know what it is like. Finding recurrences early, or a new cancer for that matter, can lead to a better prognosis and more cancer free days added to your life.