In early 2019, I found a lump in my left breast. I panicked. It came as 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. Long story short, it ended up being stage 0 DCIS cancer. Caught very early. I had a lumpectomy and 21 days of radiation. I was done. I won! I found it at the earliest stage possible. 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 chiro called. 14 bulging discs. Spinal stenosis. Degeneration. Ohhh ok. I must have a really bad back, Cand I hurt it worse at the dunes. Makes sense.
Then, I get a call from my regular doctor, and he needs to see me ASAP, within 24 hours. I was terrified. The next day we went in. He had received a copy of my scans. He asked one question that changed my life. “Do you know what metastasis means?” Of course I did. The chiropractor forgot to mention that little tidbit. Not only were there disc issues. I also had metastasis in many places. Also known as “mets”. Down my spine. My pelvis. 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. Terminal right? In my mind I was dying. NOW. Prepare for it. Get ready. Panic mode. For the first month I was immobile due to fractures and pain. I laid in bed. 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. My dad was ill. We chose not to tell him, I didn’t want to stress him out. He passed in April, never knowing my true diagnosis,
only that I was having back issues. Now I wonder if I should have told him. But he would have worried! I wanted him to focus on HIS health. I never wanted him worrying about ME.
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 hated even taking ibuprofen before all this. I was healthy. NO ongoing 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 have my first set of scans this week, to find out if things are working. I’ve learned stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (MBC as the cool kids call it) is not an immediate death sentence. Much progress has been made with treatments in the last ten years. You’re basically on treatment for the rest of your
life. You take one combo of meds until it stops working, then you switch to the next “line of treatment”, etc, until you have used them all. You hope science and research stays one step ahead, so that you DON’T run out. Some people live up to 5, 10, 15 years, even more. Some don’t. It all depends on how you react to treatment. 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.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I’ll keep writing it until I can’t write anymore, and even then, I hope people can read it and be touched, or learn something new. Cancer can’t steal all my joy, all my happy times. Those are joys and times are here to stay.