I just called to make my yearly follow-up appointment at Stanford Cancer Center for the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma I had 7 years ago. When I finished treatment, I went back every 2 months, then every 3 months, then every 4 months, then every 6 months. I’ve been going once a year now for about 4 years now. I always have very mixed emotions going there. On the one hand, even though the cancer center at Stanford has been completely redone since I was treated (it used to be in the basement of the hospital and now it is in a gorgeous new building with high ceilings, harpists, a library, a cafe, a pharmacy…and I’m sure the infusion center is lovely too…well, as lovely as that can be anyway), it still feels so very familiar. Being back there is both a triumph in my recovery and survival…and a stressful and worrisome experience. Not that I really worry about my lymphoma coming back, because at this point my oncologists say that I am back to same risk that the normal population has of getting the disease. I worry about some of the long-term effects from the chemo and radiation that I received showing up. Lung cancer. Breast cancer. Heart disease. But mainly I worry about the breast and lung cancer.
This year, I have to have a mammogram and MRI (since I am 35 and, as we have all learned from Christina Applegate’s experience, in dense breasts, breast cancer sometimes goes undetected with mammograms so MRIs are recommended for women under 40 who are at high risk for breast cancer). Many of the ladies on this website know far, far more than I about breast cancer. But what I do know is the early detection is key and if you know you are high risk, you just have to be educated and do the exams that will catch it.
So this year, my follow-up appointment will be a bit different, due to this additional test. I’m actually not sure of the statistics about how likely it is that I will develop lung or breast cancer…and I don’t think I want to know at this point. It is enough to be doing the testing and the prevention piece of things. I don’t want to live in fear or in the shadow of what might be later on. I just want to enjoy my life and do the things I can do to manage the risk. Wish me luck!