No, not actual cliff jumping.
But after my most recent PET scan, I couldn’t help but feel like I was poised at the edge of a cliff. Truthfully, I’ve felt like that for a couple of months. I keep looking down and feeling more and more afraid of what is down there. Other than, you know, the metastatic breast cancer, I don’t completely know why I have felt so frightened, so anxious, as of late. My brain and spine MRIs both came back clean. I’ve been off any sort of regular pain medication for my bone mets for several months. By all metrics, I’m doing well.
And yet, here I am, teetering on the edge of a cliff, scared for my life.
After my metastatic diagnosis, several people told me that the first year was the hardest. That thought frightened me, because a year seemed like a very long time to be in such turmoil, and also, in the back of my mind, a tiny voice kept asking whether I would have a year left. What if that year was all that I got? It’s been about 8 months. Not even three-fourths of the year, and I’m on cycle 7 of Ibrance. I fixate so much on those numbers, I suppose, because they are a concrete metric of where I’ve been. Regardless of where I go, they are the trail guides to my story.
Last Monday, I finally got the results of my scan. Stable. No change, no movement. The report was almost boring: each system unchanged, no fluctuations of statistical significance. My blood work looked great, and my tumor markers remained low. I finally exhaled and could back away from the cliff, stabilize my feet for a bit. One good scan may have been a fluke, but two good scans feels like a good sign, the hope that perhaps the remainder of that first year can continue to be a little bit boring.
Naturally, nothing is completely boring, and Dr. G and I have started discussing the possibility of an salpingo-oophorectomy (say that five times fast), which is the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. This would serve a dual purpose: it would both remove the organs that produce the majority of my estrogen (the hormone fueling any tumor growth) as well as protect me from future gynecological cancers. For this reason, we also discussed the possibility of a full hysterectomy. While I had no tumors appear on my PET scan, I have had a history of abnormal Pap smear results, and, likely due to my suppressed immune system, those abnormalities have become higher grade than before. She referred me to a gynecological surgeon, Dr. Z, and, after he reviewed my gynecological pathology reports, recommended a full hysterectomy as well. And so we are scheduling surgery, likely for the end of the summer.
While this is a routine procedure, it’s still major surgery, and has left me with a bit of anxiety about it. The what-ifs have me inching back, unwittingly, to the edge of the cliff, peering down into the vastness of the unknown. I’m grateful that I’m healthy enough (so far) to be able to have the option of elective surgery, but I have to say, the prospect is scary.