Cancer log 192: Two interpretations

Today’s mammogram came back benign.  There’s been some pushback recently in the medical community against early mammograms, with a concern that they’re picking up very-slow-moving cancers that under normal circumstances might not develop into anything problematic until the person is fifty years older — by which point, they might easily have died from something else.
 
I was talking to Kevin last night, and he’s sort of settled into thinking that might well be what happened with me — they caught something that might never have actually bothered me if we hadn’t done mammograms, maybe we went through that whole terrible year of treatment for nothing, that almost certainly, none of the follow-up mammograms will find anything, and they’re probably a waste of time (but one he still thinks I should go through with, just in case).
 
I don’t feel that way. Part of it is that there were various aspects of my tumor that didn’t seem so slow-growing — on surgery, it turned out to be bigger than they thought it was from scans, etc. But mostly, I’m just not that optimistic, I guess. I’m in the better safe than sorry camp, and I’m glad we did the treatment, however grueling it was.
 
I also have no confidence that the cancer won’t return. Pretty much every time I go in for a mammogram now, I feel like it’s 50-50 what they’ll find. That may not be accurate, but it’s my emotional reality, and shapes my reaction not just to mammogram day, but to my plans for the future. Every time they say ‘benign,’ I feel like, ‘okay, that’s another six more months I can plan on being around for.’ I do make longer term plans, of course, but they’re strongly influenced by my heightened awareness of mortality.
 
The clock is constantly ticking in the back of my head now, which is a good thing in some ways, prodding me to make the most of my time. But I’ve been feeling some increased anxiety as well — I’m not normally an anxious person, but it fades in and out now. If it’s still around at my next internal medicine doctor check-up in a few months, I might ask her to set me up with a therapist who can do talk therapy and/or prescribe me something for it, because it’s distracting and unpleasant.
 
For now — more time outside, more gardening and knitting, trying to keep the to-do list from getting too long and the e-mail inbox from getting too full (both of those are anxiety-provoking, in a way that quickly gets paralyzing, which is counter-productive.) Maybe book a massage once in a while. Read and write.
 
Writing is my greatest therapy, always, so thank you all for listening.
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