Hearing the Word “Stable”

At my recent quarterly scans, I heard the word “stable” once again. This journey can bring so much uncertainty and often confusion. Some of us live to scan to scan, sometimes bloodwork to bloodwork, and many days to day and moment-by-moment.

I tell myself that I didn’t know what was ahead before hearing that cancer diagnosis, but now I am forced to think about it. We only had one day at a time before a cancer diagnosis, and that’s all we have while navigating through a diagnosis.

Hearing the word stable gives me hope

Hearing that beloved word brings a sense of reassurance. There’s a continuity there that means I can keep living life and keep doing what I am doing.

I can stay on the same line of medication, and even with a stage IV diagnosis, I can keep going. The truth is that I can certainly do all of that should my cancer change, but I tend to want everything to remain the same as long as it can.

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This glorious word often brings a sense of relief for a couple of months until anxiety trickles back in, and it’s time to go back to that lovely outpatient radiology center for the next scans. The cycle is often chaotic. I will take that glimmer of hope in hearing “stable” just once more, even when I know I will face the same fears and worry again.

When we keep hearing the word stable, I think we can also find emotional healing in our current treatment. I think knowing that our treatment is doing its job and providing us with more life is a victory for us.

We are at the mercy of our bodies hopefully not failing us and man-made treatment. Each time we get to hear that wonderful word or even for some “no evidence of disease” we feel a sense of optimism in the face of relentless adversity.

Feeling a sense of temporary normalcy

Hearing good news at our appointments and receiving great reports gives us a sense of temporary normalcy. In the middle of uncertainties, for a moment, we get to reclaim some freedoms.

A cancer journey definitely causes a lot of angst not only to the patient but to their families and caregivers as well. We have hope of beating this cancer thing or at least learning to live with it and treat it as a chronic disease.

Limitations to hearing stable

Hearing the word “stable” and the associated emotions are also limited. The break from worry and fear is temporary, but as I mentioned, that next appointment and scans come around too quickly.

I don’t think we ever get accustomed to this roller coaster. I don’t think we ever get over these cycles of emotions when you have cancer.

I feel like survivors who are cancer-free often feel these same emotions when they go for their yearly check-ups with their oncologists. That word “stable” is something I hope for at every scan, as many of us do.

Hearing my doctor say that my “scans look good” and “there’s no change” brings such a relief after weeks of anxiety, or, as we sometimes call it, “scanxiety,” that trickles in weeks before that scan. Those seconds of our doctors providing us with those good news results provide such an escape from the gripping fear and anxiety.

Many don’t receive that relief as their news might not be good. Hearing good news is very temporary as this process is ongoing.

The constant up and down of emotions displays just how delicate the balance is between hope and the uncertainties of a cancer journey. May we all celebrate victories on this journey, both great and small.

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