5 years and all clear, but now what?

Content Warning: Whilst yes, it’s good news that I’ve had the five year all clear after my cancer, this update comes with a warning: this post isn’t celebratory. If you’re expecting a good news, positive vibes update, this isn’t it.

Most of the last five years following my cancer diagnosis and hysterectomy have been incredibly dull and uneventful. That’s a great thing.

The last year has been more eventful, including getting pain checked out with a CT scan and the results showing a 4cm lesion. That meant my doc wouldn’t give me an all clear until he was certain it wasn’t something serious. Cue an ultrasound to follow up the CT scan and blood tests to make sure it’s not more cancer.

Everything is all normal and last week I was given the five year all clear by my doc, meaning I don’t have anymore six-monthly check ups with him and I’m back to going to my GP if something is not right.

And that’s a great thing, too.

So why don’t I feel happy about it?

Cancer makes everything complicated, but I never felt overwhelmed or even scared during the diagnosis, treatments, or recovery because the doctor we chose for that initial consultation has been the best doctor I’ve ever had. He advocated for me to have the treatment options I wanted – before I even had to ask! – and he’s always made me feel heard, understood and safe.

My regular appointments with him have been a safety net that it turns out I’m not completely okay with losing. Dealing with GPs at the moment for other issues highlights just how much you have to fight for yourself to feel listened to and it’s so much work.

It’s great that I’m all clear, but let’s be honest, shall we? There was never any risk of my womb cancer returning; I had the offending organ removed after all! Does it put me at risk for other cancers, sure. That’s why he was so thorough at the end when my ovaries decided to act up.

There was a small part of me that hoped there was something more serious going on, if only to get them taken care of as well, so I wouldn’t have to overthink or second guess each little thing from now on.

So, for me, getting the five year all clear and having my safety net of regular appointments and reassurance that nothing is amiss getting pulled out from under me isn’t the same celebration for me that it is for everyone else around me. (Wow that’s a sentence and a half, isn’t it?)

Am I happy and relieved? Yes… but not nearly as much as the people I’ve told about my all clear. And I think that’s the dividing line between people that have actually had cancer, or any serious illness that later leads to uncertainty, and people that haven’t. Let me be clear, I don’t doubt that my loved ones are happy about me being cancer free, but they get to stop worrying and waiting to hear about how my latest follow up went, but I don’t get to feel that way.

It’s possibly the single most important thing getting diagnosed with something like cancer takes away from you – the belief that ‘it won’t happen to me’ or the certainty you feel when something is wrong with your body and you know, without a doubt, that it’s not serious. I’ll never get to feel that way again.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Over the last year, the closer I got to this milestone the less celebratory I felt about it. Maybe at some point I’ll feel more positive about it and able to move on but this time of year is – and will always be – difficult now. My official anniversary is on 30th October and I’ve booked the 31st off work for my monthly mental health day and maybe I’ll try to find some joy to celebrate then, if my post-Covid health allows anyway.