Re… Re… Remission.
There has always been one question that causes me to pause. Not because the question upsets or concerns me, but because I have never known the answer. (Google hasn’t been much help for this one.) The question is:”Are you cancer free?”
It’s a hard one to answer because every cancer patient’s situation is different. Some patients say they are cancer free from their first check-up post treatment. Others mark it from their final round of chemo; radiation; or surgery.
So when am I worthy of the nickname: NED (No Evidence of Disease)?
My theory is this: If I had chemo and double mastectomy for ‘preventative’ purposes, haven’t I been cancer free from when the lump was removed last year? My medical team are yet to mentioned the word ‘remission’, so I’ve always assumed it hasn’t applied to me yet.
To understand my mindset, here’s a recap of the past year (for those who missed the start of the journey).
September 2, 2013. Surgery #1: Lumpectomy and Sentinel Node Biopsy. The cancerous lump was removed, along with three lymph nodes to test and determine if any cells had escaped. (They hadn’t! Phew.)
September 6, 2013. Surgery #2: Re-excision. When they remove a mass there needs to be a clear margin of healthy, cancer-free tissue surrounding the cancerous mass. The pathology report showed the lump was bigger than they thought and they didn’t have a clear margin, so they needed to take out more tissue. The clear margin was achieved after the second surgery.
October 11, 2013. IVF: Extraction of eggs. Sort of a surgery but not. Let’s not count it as an official surgery.
October 16, 2013, First round of chemo: The moment we realised I was allergic to chemotherapy drugs. Oh joy.
January 31, 2014, Last round of chemo: Finally…
July 31, 2014, Surgery #3: Double mastectomy with reconstruction. All tissue removed was clear; no cancer cells identified.
And we’re not at the end yet! In the future I will need a fourth surgery to insert the implants; a fifth surgery to re-create nipples, and tattooing to make them look real.
The next stages of the reconstruction process may not be completed until 2015 or 2016!
So, do I really have to wait another year, or more, to celebrate being in remission, or NED?
Knowing my treatment is still ongoing, all preventative, when would be my “end of treatment, I am now cancer-free date be?”
It shouldn’t be after my double mastectomy – that was preventative, nor should it be after I finished chemo – that was preventative too. When was I truly cancer free? When was there no evidence of any cancer cells in my body.
That, my friends, was after my re-excision. That was September 6, 2013. That was a year ago today.
Without wanting to get too carried away and excited about this, I thought I would put the question to my oncologist, Dr Oliveira (I had a follow-up appointment with her last week). After a long-winded explanation about not being labelled ‘cured’ for another 15 years, so said she was happy to say I’m in ‘remission’. I then asked when my remission technically started. I told her my theory, and she agreed with it. I have been in remission for a year!
I’m yet to meet with my surgeon and ask if he agrees with my theory – he probably won’t. I’m sure he’ll have his own theory about my remission date.
So I’m throwing caution to the wind and marking today as my one-year remission anniversary. (Maybe NED should be my nickname instead of Rocky… not sure it has the same ring to it). Only 14 more years until I’m cured (apparently).
So pop some bubbles, grab a beer or go hard with a Whiskey. I’ve got a hot brunch date and a glass of bubbles with my name on it.
Bottoms up. Salud. Prost. Kippis. לחיים. Gesondheid. Salute. Na zdravi. Şerefe. Terviseks.