by Brandie Sellers

Originally published by the MD Anderson Cancer Center

All cancer sucks. However, I must admit (not-so-secretly) that I envy people who complete cancer treatment. In my case, breast cancer treatment has been constant since my diagnosis and recurrence in 2011. I often return to MD Anderson for CT scans, bone scans, chest ultrasounds and other tests that come along with having a later stage breast cancer diagnosis. The scans are never completely clear, and there’s always something to watch. Living without absolutes really messes with my head.

Living from cancer treatment follow-up exam to follow-up exam 
I’m always hesitant to make plans for more than six months ahead of time. That’s how often I have my follow-up scans. With so much uncertainty, it’s easy for me to get into the pattern of living my life in short bursts. I wonder, “Why plan something for next year? What if I’m in cancer treatment again?”

Not planning anything past six months from now means that I’m not looking forward to things that happen past that point. I don’t plan for retirement, for example. If I don’t live long enough to retire I’d rather use that money to take myself or my kids on a great trip. I already had life insurance before I got diagnosed, thank goodness, so that if I do die before my kids are grown they will be financially secure.  

Finding joy after cancer
I’m afraid that if I allow myself to really throw open the curtains and feel the sun on my face I will eventually get smacked back down into despair. If I allow myself to celebrate having no evidence of disease (NED) it will all be made a lie because the cancer will come back anyway.

But I’ve also realized I don’t want qualifiers attached to my joy. I want joy, not “joy, but.” So I’m making plans to go to Greece this summer, which requires longer planning than my usual six months. I also have a goal to be working full-time by 2015 instead of part-time.

I am certain that looking forward past six months will help me have more unqualified joy in my life. Maybe next year I’ll start planning that retirement.