Today I am sitting in The Gazebo at MD Anderson Cancer Center waiting to meet my new oncologist. My previous oncologist has moved to a new opportunity, so I have been reassigned. This has been a little stressful because it is a disruption in my stage IV routine. Yes, I actually developed a routine with this stuff. Now it is probably one of the worst things to have become habit and familiar because hello! It’s freaking cancer! But I have been doing this long enough that I know how fortunate I am. I am grateful for this routine.
My normal over the past few years has basically been a never-ending chess match with cancer. I get scanned every three months. That is a constant like the chess board. The rest of my routine is like the movement of pieces. I switch between doing hard chemotherapy until I am ready to quit and breaks from treatment/a maintenance type chemo. Now while I am on the tough treatment, the cancer stays stable and the match is even. When I take breaks, I know I will have growth and lose a little ground to cancer. I also know I need them, so I can continue the match. There is strategy, planning, risk, and trying to figure out the next move to avoid a checkmate.
Right now, I have been on maintenance chemotherapy since April. I had my scan and blood work yesterday and fully expect to hear I have had growth. I know this usually means going back on the chemotherapy that kicks my butt; however, there is a wrinkle in my routine. I have a new doctor and I have no idea how he thinks or what he could recommend. It is scary and I feel a little out of control. Will he listen to my opinions? Will we mesh? I have had cancer for six and half years and have had six different doctors. Between being a military family and moves for work, I have had to switch doctors frequently. He will be number seven, and I am anxiously awaiting to see what our doctor/patient relationship will look like.
Sitting here surrounded by patients in one of the top cancer hospitals in the world, I realize that me being comfortable with what I see as my routine is a little crazy. If cancer has shown me anything, it is that it is completely unpredictable, and my routine is a complete farce. Cancer is the master of disruption in so many people’s lives. The best we can do is try to find a way to NED (no evidence of disease) through every means necessary; and, if we can’t do that, we hold off that checkmate for as long as we can and tip the king when the time comes.
Diana Sloan is originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, and is a graduate of James Madison University. She currently lives in Lakeway, Texas, with her husband of nineteen years and their three daughters. Diana was an English teacher until 2012 when she was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer. She is currently in treatment and spends her free time making memories with her family. She is also active in the colorectal cancer community and is the blog manager for The Colon Club, an all-volunteer advocacy group.