Fear of Recurrence and Mortality

I would imagine it’s normal to face some degree of depression, anxiety, and fear when cancer becomes a part of your life. I have always felt lucky that my cancer was caught early enough that the doctors were able to get it all out with my surgery and 8 chemotherapy treatments. I continued to undergo ovarian cancer screening until having a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries and Fallopian tubes) in May 2015. I can’t say that I was happy to have my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed at the age of 42, but given my increased risk for ovarian cancer as a BRCA1 mutation carrier, I felt it was the best decision for me. Not surprisingly, proceeding with that surgery further diminished my fear of recurrence.

There are some alarming truths about breast cancer that I cannot easily overlook. While the breast cancer mortality rate has gone down in recent years, too many women still die of the disease each year. Moreover, there is always the chance of breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body (metastasis), and there are many women living with metastatic breast cancer. What is most disconcerting to me is that some women considered “cured” of breast cancer will suffer recurrences and/or metastatic spread of the disease. This can even happen many years after their initial diagnosis.  This is where the fear comes into play for me.  What is a breast cancer survivor like me to do with this information?  My answer is to forget about it. I can’t worry about what I can’t control, and I’ve done everything I can to prevent a recurrence, including eating well and staying active. As my mother would say, “Gay Ga Zinta Hate”, which in Yiddish means “Go in good health”. Breast cancer does not always mean an end, it can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts, and finding hope.


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