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My Cancer Resume

by Nancy Stordahl

Inspiration image

Sometimes it feels like my job, or at least my part-time job, is cancer. It also feels like I am constantly making additions to my can­cer resume. Generally, on a resume, experience is a good thing – the more of it you have, the better. On a cancer resume … not so much.

For most of my life, I’ve been healthy. Oh sure, I had the usual child­hood maladies like mumps, measles, and chickenpox. I had very brief hospital stays when each of my kids was born (along with all the necessary pre­natal visits, of course). Not counting my annual physicals, that was about it for me as far as medical stuff.

When cancer recently came calling, I found myself going to countless ap­pointments, having what seemed like a gazillion procedures done, and sitting in on too many consultations that were about me.

Even now, a year later, my husband asks me every Monday, “So, what ap­pointments do you have this week?” My medical freedom days are over. And my medical resume – or more specifically, my cancer resume – keeps growing.

Generally, on a resume, experience is a good thing – the more of it you have, the better. On a cancer resume … not so much.

The latest procedure I added was a bone scan, which my doctor ordered “just to rule things out.”

I’ve heard that phrase before, on the day my heart attack symptoms led me to the ER where a different doctor ordered a CT scan – just to rule things out. The heart attack was indeed ruled out, but cancer swooped right in and took its place. That was the beginning of my cancer resume, which to date includes the CT scan, emergency mam­mogram, ultrasound, biopsy, bilateral mastectomy, tissue expander placement, implant trade out, nipple reconstruc­tion, echocardiogram, chemotherapy, hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, X-rays, and now a bone scan.

As far as tests go, the bone scan was easy. All I had to do was lie on a table (why are they always so nar­row?) as still as possible for about 20 minutes while the machine slowly passed over me as if it was on a secret mission to pick up suspicious activity in my bones (which I guess it was). Keeping my body still was the easy part. Keeping my mind still wasn’t quite as easy.

It’s hard to keep your mind from jumping to worst-case scenarios when you’re being scanned for a recurrence. The word recurrence was never said aloud, but we all knew that’s exactly what we were checking for.

Afterward, I headed home to wait for the phone call that eventually would “rule things out” – for now.

That’s the thing about cancer, nothing is ever ruled out for good. But for now, all is well. And that’s good enough for me.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Nancy Stordahl lives in Wisconsin and blogs at, where she candidly shares her own breast cancer experience. Her writing has appeared in Grief Digest magazine, and she is working on a memoir.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2012.