For my 35th birthday, the Ontario healthcare system gifted me an oncology appointment: my first since finishing chemotherapy less than a month ago.
I officially received word that I’m in the NED stage of my my cancer treatment. No evidence of disease.
It doesn’t mean that I’m out of the woods just yet. There are a few milestones that I’ll have to cross, each one marking a decrease in probability that my cancer will come back.
The first big milestone is in February of 2023, at which time I’ll undergo a full set of CT scans, blood work, and an MRI. Assuming all is well, my next follow-up will be three months after that.
No new information
There were no scans ahead of my follow-up appointment, mainly because I underwent a full series and colonoscopy within the past three months. Therefore, there’s nothing truly new to report.
The prognosis remains the same as ever: I am likely, at some point, to face progression and recurrence of my cancer.
This will likely take the form of colon cancer spreading to my liver or lungs within the next three years.
As a result, I have not been discharged from the cancer centre. My oncologist is keeping me on her roster to ensure prompt action should the need for additional treatments or surgeries arise.
I’m grateful for this because I have an excellent oncologist who’s been on top of things from day one.
A beginning, not an end
Being in a spot where there’s no sign of cancer plaguing my body is an interesting one.
For the last nine months, I’ve been focused on healing and treatment. I’ve been doing my utmost to repel the attacker, hopefully pounding it into submission through the scorched earth approach of chemotherapy. It’s been hard. My body and mind have suffered permanent damage, the effects of which are making themselves present with each passing day.
Although I’ve considered myself a cancer survivor from day one, it’s only now that I am entering the survivorship phase. There are no more treatments planned for the foreseeable future. It feels strange given how all-consuming cancer has been for the last while.
I won’t be talking to my team for three months, which is a challenging place to be when you’re accustomed to speaking with someone weekly (at a minimum).
Now that I’ve moved to the surveillance phase, I’ll be checking in with my team every three months for the next year. Then we’ll move to a six month interval. Then annually. Unless, of course, something comes up.
There is a lot of work for me to put in as I navigate this arc in my story. I’ve heard from peers that surviving is harder than going through treatment. Time will tell.
I’m not planning on going anywhere. My time in cancerland will be spent focusing on advocacy, storytelling, and supporting others who are forced to walk a similar path.
Thanks for reading this far. Much love.