Sunday, April 09, 2006

Eternal vigilance

I've been cancer free for a little over 11 years now. I had a rare cancer - Merkel Cell Carcinoma ( and they initially told me I had a 50-50 chance of surviving a year. With further testing, I was staged at either IB or II (they were never 100% sure if it had reached my lymph nodes). I had Mohs surgery to excise the tumor (on my left temple), and followed it up with two different kinds of radiation therapy. My last dose of radiation was on St. Patrick's Day, 1995.

At first, I had monthly checkups with my dermatologist, then every other month, then every 3 months, then every 6 months, then yearly. It took a long time, but I finally began to feel safe again. One year, when the anniversary of my surgery passed and I didn't even notice, I realized that mental freedom was part of the cure - the increase in the number of years survived was no longer a significant event. My life was moving past the trauma of diagnosis and treatment.

But I just experienced a new release. One of the benefits of having a rare cancer is that the most prestigious doctors are *interested* in your case. While my dermatologist only sees current surgical patients, he has continued to monitor me - until this year. This year, I was told I could just see one of his associates. To me, that is the final return to "normal." It's as if the final rope tying me to cancer has been thrown off. I still have to watch and monitor, but my case is no longer interesting. And boring is good where health is concerned!

But I won't forget to wear sunscreen.


george said...

Maureen. I am also a survivor of merkel cell cancer. Please stop by our discussion group at google groups.

Group Admin & MCC Survivor

Anonymous said...

Maureen, we would love to be able to have you as a group member and survivor with the 122 other merkel cell cancer survivors at our small group.

Group Admin & MCC Survivor

Nicole said...

My dad who had Merkel cell, just died. Did anyone take a medication called Imuran because I strongly believe that this medication caused this type of cancer. Please email me.