I had coffee recently with a close friend of mine and during our nearly three hour conversation that covered topics ranging from our kids to husbands to vacation plans to movies, I happened to mention that I have my quarterly scans coming up soon. She then asked me if I still got nervous before scans, clearly expecting the answer to be “not really.”
Others Just Don’t Get It
Since I was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer a little over four years ago, my friends and family overall have been extremely supportive. However, it’s often very hard for them to understand what it’s like to be part of the growing group of people who are living with stage IV cancers.
I didn’t understand either until I was diagnosed. Growing up, I only knew of people who got cancer and were “cured” or more unfortunately, passed away. There were sometimes celebrations for people who reached certain milestones, such as five or ten years past their diagnosis, but for these people, cancer treatments were always a part of their past, not their present.
I am often asked when I will be done with treatment for my lung cancer. I’ve found that many people, even those close to me, frequently don’t understand that I will be on some form of treatment for the rest of my life. I was very fortunate to have been able to stay on my first targeted therapy medication for my EGFR mutated lung cancer for almost 3 years and upon progression, qualified for a newer targeted therapy that I have now taken for a little over a year. These medications, while wonderful, don’t cure my lung cancer; they just allow it to be suppressed for a period of time.
The Scanxiety Continues
As a result, every time I go to my oncologist for scans, I worry that I might have developed resistance to my current treatment. I am certainly very happy the longer I stay on a treatment, but as opposed to feeling more confident the longer a treatment lasts, I worry instead that its effectiveness is going to end soon. When I hopefully celebrate my five year cancerversary at the end of this year, I will be celebrating the uncommon situation of a stage IV lung cancer patient living that long; however, I won’t feel safer because I have passed the five year mark.
So to answer my friend’s question — yes, I still worry every time I get a scan. I worry if this is the time when my luck will change and my current medication will no longer be suppressing my cancer. I worry that I’ll need to change treatments and if so, it’s not very clear what my next treatment option might be. I just hope I don’t need to figure this out too soon!