Most of you don’t know that my last scan was actually clear, meaning that no cancer was found. That’s because I stopped telling people after I had too many confusing conversations about…
what the clear scan meant. Most people’s reaction to my news was overly celebratory and their expectations for my life quickly became unreasonable. They assumed that I was cured of cancer and that I was suddenly looking at it in the rearview mirror.
I have metastatic (or stage IV) breast cancer. This means that while the doctors can treat my disease, they can not cure it. I wish I could completely remove the cancer from my body once and for all. But I understand that this is an unrealistic desire. Science tells us that the cancer will come back at some point, and I will have to undergo treatment to try to get rid of it. But eventually, it will take over my body, and that is my reality.
When my friends rejoiced upon hearing of my clear scan, I wanted to shove them to the ground for celebrating such a tiny victory (Don’t worry I didn’t. This just happened in my mind). It’s like someone celebrating your first mile of a marathon. They’re congratulating you, without acknowledging the 25 miles that lay ahead, and you’re wondering why they’re celebrating. In hindsight, I should’ve just said to everyone, “Well, the radiation worked,” and left it at that. Honestly, I felt discouraged that people didn’t understand.
When I played basketball at BYU, we won the Mountain West Conference (MWC) Tournament Championship. I’ll never forget the feeling I had because it was so contradictory to what my teammates were obviously feeling. As I watched my teammates jump for joy, I wanted them to stop because to me this game really didn’t mean anything. I was glad when the game was over so that we could focus on what really mattered: the NCAA tournament aka the Big Dance. Before transferring to BYU for my senior year, I played for UCLA in the Pac-10 when we didn’t have conference tournaments, but we made deep runs in the prestigious NCAA Tournament. I wanted to experience the Big Dance again, and our MWC Tournament felt like an unnecessary formality to get there. When the final buzzer sounded of the MWC Tournament, I barely cracked a smile and walked off the court that day with a fierce determination to prepare for the war that lay ahead in the NCAA Tournament. I wanted to win that war. And this championship game was just a battle along the way.
Today I wage a different war, but the idea is the same. Now, my war is a fight against cancer. My battles are the scans every three months and everything I do in between. I had a scan last Friday and I’m awaiting the results. So as far as I know, right now, I’M CANCER FREE!!! But it’s more like, I’m cancer free. Period. No triple exclamation point, and no capitalization. I want to make it clear, however, that I am indeed grateful for any clear scan I am afforded. I celebrate it in my own small way. I thank God in prayer and I feel a sense of relief that I have that much longer to live. But please forgive me if I don’t jubilantly jump for joy on my next clear scan. I’m just gearing up for my long fight ahead.