I've gone back to work after the holidays, and colleagues ask me how I'm doing, and I say I'm great, I feel totally fine now, I'm cured. And all of those are true? But it's also true to say I'm still in treatment, I have to go in for infusions every three weeks, I'll be taking a Tamoxifen pill every day 'til the day I die, I may have surgery in the fall to reconstruct the chunk taken out of my breast, and this cute haircut that people keep complimenting me on is mostly here because all my hair fell out during chemo. It doesn't feel like my choice. (Coloring some of it blue was my choice, though. That part is fun.)
I mention to my students that I had cancer last year. We were discussing science fiction tropes in class yesterday (talking about how to still write good genre fiction and not be overwhelmed by the power of the tropes), and they came up with cyborgs as a trope and I told them I was a cyborg and showed them the port protruding from my chest, the scar, the tube running up my neck to the vein. It was funny in the moment, but I also think I shocked some of them a little. Oops. I didn't mean to.
It feels like a lie, when I say I'm still dealing with cancer, given that I feel totally fine and healthy, and as far as we know, all the cancer has been excised from my body. I'm as healthy as the next person -- probably healthier than most, in fact.
It feels like a lie, saying I'm cured, when they're going to be following up with mammograms for the next five years, just to make sure the cancer hasn't snuck back.
It's a weird, half-ill, liminal state I find myself in now. It should dissipate with time -- in October, the infusions will stop. The mammograms will become less frequent. My follow-up visits will slow down too. Maybe someday, I'll just become someone who had cancer once. And then it went away.