I was talking with a few women last week, all of us had been through breast cancer treatment or were in the midst of it. We talked about lots of things, but eventually got to talking about our doctor appointments. During treatment, I might have one week with no appointments, but the next week, there was at least one appointment and one trip to chemo. Even after chemo was over, I had countless pre-surgical and post-surgical appointments. I sat in this exam room once every week or two for months going through the expansion process that led up to my final reconstructive surgery. Even after that final surgery, there are still lots of follow ups.
After spending so much time with kind, compassionate doctors, it’s like leaving friends behind once you’re released to visit only once every six months. Every woman who had finished her treatment could remember the strange feeling of saying goodbye to a favorite doctor and the staff. Being free of all those appointments and interventions should be cause for celebration! But as much as we all loved seeing the familiar faces, there is a reassurance when you see a doctor every week or two. Even if they’re not doing any scans, even if you are seeing a surgeon who is primarily concerned with aesthetics. There is reassurance to knowing that you are in the presence of a trained physician, surely if he says you’re ok, then you’re ok. Even if it’s just a chat, surely the oncologist can see if there is a problem, right?
I truly enjoy chatting with my physicians, we usually talk far more about non-medical things. I feel certain that, had I met them under other circumstances, we would have been friends. But there is the subconscious, the unverbalized reason that it’s hard to wait six months before heading back to put on that awful “open in the front” paper gown. There something so reassuring about hearing a professional tell you everything is ok. So now I’m hoping that it’s reassuring enough to last for six months, until my next appointment. I definitely didn’t recognize it at the time, but I really do miss all those appointments.
This post is part of a series of what I’ll miss from my time as a cancer patient. I know cancer is a serious thing, not everyone tolerates treatment well, and not everyone recovers. I don’t mean to offend by making light of a serious subject. These posts are just a glimpse of my efforts to make the best of my situation—to find the silver linings wherever I can.