It's almost 4½ years since Christine was originally diagnosed with breast cancer, and occasionally people will ask me how she is doing. These days my response is pretty much always the same: "She's doing pretty well, the cancer seems to be in remission", I'll reply, whilst thinking "why don't you ask how everyone else is doing?"
I think this because cancer affects everyone around the patient, and this week has been a classic example of familial cancer. A week ago, or thereabouts, Christine had a sore spot in her remaining breast. This is the continual dread of cancer survivors; every lump or swelling, pain or discomfort suddenly turns lives upside-down all over again. The bright hope of survival dims until the next test confirms or denies more cancer, more treatment, less life.
So we have a mammogram today. I say "we" because she has an entourage. I'm going and at least one of our friends will come along to keep us company and encourage us, holding our hands through the darkness of not-knowingness, and afterward to celebrate a negative (no-cancer) result or help us cry if it's positive.
I need to get this out of my system today because anyone who hasn't been through the whole cancer thing can't understand that the lump circus can occur at any time. My reckoning is that we go through this four times a year. A lump is found, then Christine's off to have a scan of some sort. Mammograms, PET, MRI, CSI, drinking contrast fluids, fasting for twelve hours, trekking hither and yon and all the while wondering if This Is It Again, while all we really want is five years free of cancer. Then we can call it "cured". Four times a year.
So being moderately brainless at the moment (see stress) I looked on an online thesaurus for "four times a year" because I knew that it wasn't quadrennial. The result of my search was "No results found...did you mean 'doomsayer'?" No, I didn't, thank you very much. Let's just hope that the doom is a long way off.
Update: Both the mammogram and subsequent ultrasound scans showed no evidence of worrisome stuff. But the stress and anxiety take their toll, nonetheless.