This past Tuesday was a big day for me. It was the five-year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer on March 22, 2017. Triple-negative is a pretty nasty type of breast cancer and there is the potential for a significant recurrence rate especially within the first three years post treatment. However, once you hit that five-year mark, that rate drops dramatically and according to my oncologist, “It’s very rare that the cancer will come back after five years.” You can see why this is a biggie for me.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to publicly acknowledge this day, and I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on that. I’ve never been one to feel that cancer defines me. It doesn’t. It’s not WHO I am, but it IS a part of my story. I also believe that dwelling on something that is negative in our life and giving it too much attention gives that thing unnecessary power. Continuingly dwelling on it is not healthy, and it gives that beast more credit than it deserves. Hence my struggle to even mention it today.
For the past five years I’ve been going to my oncologist for six-month checks. After leaving each exam with a good report, I would walk out of the exam room calmly grateful for the proverbial happy face sticker on my chart. Then I would make my way to the oncology appointment desk to schedule my next six-month check. I would proceed to my car, give my husband and parents a quick call to let them know all was good, and be on with my day.
But this time was different.
I had a little more anxious energy flowing through my veins as I waited in the exam room staring at the same gray exam table I have spent the last five years of my medical life laying on. When my doctor came into the room, I proceeded to cheerily small talk to keep my mind off the fact that this was the infamous “five-year check”. After she did the routine examination and asked me all the questions that I could have recited for her, she said something that completely rocked my world. “Jamie, you don’t need to stop at the appointment desk on the way out. You’re done with the oncology department.”
Tears were screaming to explode out of my eyes right there, but I held it in and saved it for my car and the poor guy walking by me in the hospital parking lot. Something about knowing that I didn’t have to go back to that specific department did something inside of me that I didn’t expect. It was closure.
I know that hitting that five-year mark is not some magic number that says cancer is forever defeated. There are plenty of dear people who are still on their journey and reoccurrence at any time frame is a real thing. I completely acknowledge that, and know this also applies to me.
However, I will continue to live my life with peace in my heart believing that I am healed and it’s not my time yet. God is not ready to call me home right now. He has more that He wants me to accomplish for His purposes here on this earth. My prayer has always been that He will use my pain, my story, and my life to help others and most importantly, bring Him glory.
I’m still here, at least for today, and I believe that God has a hope and a future for me whether that’s four more days, or forty more years. I am choosing to live my life to the fullest each day, grateful for every breath and every opportunity I’m given because that’s what cancer does. It gives you perspective.
Thank you, Jesus for FIVE YEARS.