In early 2019, I found a lump in my left breast. I panicked. It came out of nowhere. I quickly made an appointment and within a week I was getting a mammogram. My mammogram came back clear, but because there was an obvious lump I was referred to have an ultrasound. I had stage 0 DCIS cancer. I had a lumpectomy and 21 days of radiation. I was done. I won! I was in the clear. (We thought)
Fast forward…..Thanksgiving 2020. My side/back hurt so bad I couldn’t even prepare food for the day. That weekend my fiancé and his kids and I went and rented a house on the dunes, a favorite place to be. We rode all weekend, had a huge turkey dinner, and my pain progressed. After about a month of chiropractor visits, they finally referred me to have some scans. The chiropractor called. I had 14 bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and degeneration. Then, I get a call from my regular doctor, and he needs to see me within 24 hours. I was terrified. He had received a copy of my scans. He asked one question that changed my life. “Do you know what metastasis means?” Not only were there disc issues. I also had metastasis in many places: down my spine, my pelvis, and my sacrum had a large tumor. By the time all scans were done, we found I had two fractures in my pelvis/sacrum, one on my pubic bone, one in my ribs, and one in my spine. I was a MESS.
Stage 4. For the first month I was immobile due to fractures and pain. I wondered how I would leave my 15 year old son, and my 20 year old daughter, who is severely disabled with cerebral palsy, so she’s much like a big baby and needs full time care. I had a rough start. 3 sets of radiation took a lot out of me. Then I got COVID. Then my meds caused my white blood cell count to be too low, so I ended up hospitalized, where I learned two blood clots had broken free from my legs and were in my lungs, and there were two left in my legs. Add blood thinners to my ever growing list of meds.
I am now almost 6 months into treatment. My cancer is estrogen/progesterone positive, HER2 negative. I take a hormone blocker and a targeted therapy much like chemo. I’ve learned stage 4 metastatic breast cancer is not an immediate death sentence. You hope science and research stays one step ahead, so that you DON’T run out of time. My treatment never ends. It ends when my life ends. That’s one of the biggest misunderstandings with this disease. I prefer to say chronic over terminal.
I’m trying to find the joys every day. I am still in great pain, though it has gotten better. I went from a walker to a cane, to just walking different than my normal. I’m trying to be positive, and hope for many more years. But I have also always been a realist. I have some dark days. I cannot lie.
I hope to have many years with my family and friends. At 48, my life is so good. I am in such a happy place. I really am surrounded by a lot of good. I have to remind myself often. Cancer can’t steal that away right now. I live one day at a time. I find it hard to plan ahead. Cancer can’t steal all my joy, all my happy times. Those are here to stay.