The waiting game: A cancer survivor's story

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Marcy Kurtz

By Marcy Kurtz

Perhaps you've heard the expression "too much time to do nothing, not enough time to do anything." It is one of my favorites. 

I am not fond of being idle. On the other hand, I do not like being rushed when I have a task to accomplish. Not having enough time to do anything and having too much time to do nothing leaves me in a state of complete frustration because I am in limbo. When I am in limbo, I feel out of control. Feeling out of control makes me feel powerless.  

Being a cancer survivor sometimes creates these same feelings of frustration, lack of control and powerlessness.

A longer reprieve from scans and scanxiety after uterine cancer 
I completed nine months of treatment for uterine cancer at the end of March 2011. I have remained under the watchful eye of my team at MD Anderson since then. 

Because of the aggressive nature of my uterine cancer and the particulars of my uterine cancer diagnosis, my team determined I should have quarterly PET scans and follow-up doctor visits. In March 2013, my team and I determined that I could "graduate" to tests every four months. I was relieved to get a longer reprieve between scans and the stress associated with getting tested for any evidence of cancer.  

Importantly, I also interpreted that one-month extension to be a sign that my team believed my long term prognosis was improving. I finally did not need to be as closely monitored. I had passed my critical two-year mark with no evidence of recurrence. I was ecstatic.  

Cancer recurrence uncertainty: My new limbo   
I recently had my next-scheduled scan and check-up. After breezing through eight of these tests post-treatment, I really expected to get only good news. 

Instead, I was told that there was something on my scan that merited monitoring. 

Thankfully, my primary gynecologic oncologist was not alarmed and that calmed me down. 

However, she also said that, because of my history, I would need another scan and follow-up visit in just two months -- the minimum suggested time between PET scans. My results did not show a cancer recurrence, but they also were not clearly unremarkable. I was -- and am -- in that frustrating state of limbo, that state of not knowing. 

Playing the waiting game Like many cancer patients, I am now playing the waiting game. I do not have specific bad news -- such as evidence of new or recurrent cancer -- but I have just enough information from my doctor and my scan report that I cannot truly be worry-free for the next 60 days.

What if ...? That is the nagging underlying question that just won't go away, even if it does not bubble to the surface.  

Living in the moment
In my effort to regain and retain my sense of control and to empower myself and others, I have made the decision to live in the moment for the next 60 days. As many times as necessary, I will repeat the mantra that I repeated daily, and sometimes hourly, during my cancer treatment: "Right this minute, I'm just fine." And, right this minute, I truly am.

Knowing this takes me out of limbo, even if just for a short period of time. Those little spurts of time add up until eventually I spend more time knowing I am just fine than I do time in limbo. 
Sixty days will pass soon enough. In the meantime, I am fortunate that I have a close family and circle of friends who will ensure that I do not waste too much time worrying over things I cannot control. 

I have learned during my cancer journey not to ever waste time. I have also learned the power of gratitude. While I am in limbo, playing the waiting game, I am grateful I do not have a cancer recurrence diagnosis to handle right now.

Marcy Kurtz is a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. She practices law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation. As a lawyer and a yoga instructor, she's deeply committed to helping people. Marcy is a two-time cancer survivor, beating breast cancer diagnosed in October 2005 and uterine cancer diagnosed in August 2010. 

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