If you’ve gone through cancer treatments or treatments for any other type of serious illness, you may find yourself in a similar situation as those of us who have been through treatments for ovarian cancer.
Once the treatments end, follow-up begins. For most ovarian cancer patients the follow-up is every 12 weeks, for the next 5 years — even if you’ve been declared cancer-free or N.E.D. (no evidence of disease).
So for us, there’s little time to celebrate before we start this new routine every 12 weeks. We are told to make an appointment with the doctor and a week before our appointment we must go to the lab and get a CA125 blood test. This is a blood test that is used to monitor ovarian cancer. Anything below 35 is normal.
The problem here is the stress created around this blood test. This stress can linger for weeks. It’s a test we have to take every 12 weeks for years and years! Stress might start when we realize it’s time to make the lab appointment. That alone starts us thinking about the number. When we get to the lab, more stress about number. We get anxious or worry about it until we actually get to the doctor and find out the result.
Now if the number has jumped a couple points (even if it’s still single digits), that creates more stress. Now we stress about it until the next appointment in 12 weeks. What if it goes up again? Maybe it does goes up a point or two. It’s still very low, but two jumps no matter how small can create a tremendous amount of stress.
It’s well documented that stress is a major cause of illness and disease. So how do we manage the stress around this 12 week routine?
I became very aware of the stress I was experiencing because my CA125 fluctuates a lot. Sometimes it’s double digits, sometimes its very low single digits. I began to wonder if the stress was worth it.
What could I do about it anyway? There are lots of reasons it’s go up or down that have nothing to do with cancer. So, why worry about it.
I decided the only way I could stop stressing about it was by releasing my attachment to the number. Every 12 weeks, I was so attached to that number. I needed to let go of that attachment. It was not serving me well. It was creating stress and that is harmful.
If it goes up, there’s nothing I can do about it. Worrying about it is not going to help and it’s not going to change a thing.
Get realistic about it. It’s the doctor who needs the number, not me, not you. If there’s something to worry about, believe me we’ll hear about it.
Releasing anything we are attached to takes practice and time, but it’s well worth it. Don’t even ask about my CA number anymore. If the doctor brings it up, that’s fine, then you know what it is, but don’t ask anymore.
Once I stopped asking, I stopped thinking about it. I don’t even care what it is anymore. I know and you do too, if there’s a concern, you’ll hear about it soon enough and that’s when we’ll deal with it.
Leave the medical stuff to your doctor. It’s their job to worry about our labs and any other test results. It’s our job to enjoy what’s left of our life.
I encourage you to practice releasing those things in your life that no longer serve you. Stressing over your lab results is one of those very important things.