Living with a fear of recurrence

Living with a fear of recurrence

By Ashley Stead-Morine

Some days it’s a lot. The flashbacks of the day I was diagnosed with cancer, the fear of dying that paralyzed me, brain fog, hair loss, depression, and the role it played in the dissolution of my marriage.

For the past four years, I’ve thought about my primary cancer and its potential for recurrence every day. I yearned for the feeling of being a “normal” 30-year-old without fear of an early expiration date, and for a while this year, I did.

You see, on New Year’s Eve, I moved to Australia to begin a new chapter with my partner, Michael. The first few months of 2021 were hectic and I was kept busy with visa applications, professional licensing, apartment hunting, friendship making, and trips to beaches and rainforests. I was the happiest I’ve been in years; I often found myself crying tears of joy. But try as I might to live like cancer didn’t exist, the reality of recurrence smacked me in the face again. Three times.

1. I had to divulge to my partner that the cancer I had could show up again in the future, and this time, it may not be treatable. The 50 per cent chance of this happening isn’t ideal when planning a future together.

2. My father was watching my social media accounts; he was worried. He saw how much fun I was having, but he wondered if I had forgotten something very important. Cancer monitoring. Scans, blood tests etc. Truth is, this WAS on my mind, but I had shoved it in a dusty compartment near where my brain fog hangs out, because I’m scared.

Sadly, I am not covered under Australian medicare so I’ve had to pay for my ultrasounds and blood tests. I took free healthcare for granted, and now I have to budget for lifesaving scans. What happens if the scans show that cancer has returned? I have to move back to Canada, leaving behind the dream life I’ve created for myself here.

3. This week, a close friend of mine found out her cancer has spread. She has the same cancer I do, we are close in age, work in the same industry and were diagnosed a week apart. Fear of recurrence came creeping in, as did immense fear of losing my friend.

This recent reality check has just reiterated to me that the only way to get through the day to day is to live like the cliché says, live each day as if it’s your last.

Should the day come that I’m faced with another oncologist delivering bad news, I wont regret that I dropped fear for a minute to follow my heart to Australia.

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