Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer you’d never think of there being worse news…until you’re diagnosed with cancer again. Feels something like this, ‘Hey you’ve reached the light at the end of the tunnel! You see it? Looks nice out there, right? Now turn your a** around.’
In May of this year, I had my reconstructive breast surgery. I was starting to feel like myself again and this surgery symbolized the last step, “the light at the end of the tunnel.” About two weeks later I had a follow-up with my Oncologist. Some routine blood work led to a pet scan and a biopsy of my liver, which showed metastasis. Needless to say I was devastated. The thought of recurrence had never even crossed my mind. I truly believed I could put it all behind me and move on. I was wrong.
After the flashbacks of bald heads seised, I began doing research–reading anything and everything about metastatic breast cancer. The more I read, the more scared I became. I was becoming painfully aware that this disease could take years off of my life and many milestones with it. But I also gained a sense of control. Ya know that whole knowledge is power thing.
What I discovered is I am not alone. There are many treatment options and the list is often growing. Countless clinical trials are available, and most importantly there are women thriving with MBC. I found hope.
For those who know me, I am the queen of optimism and if there’s a silver lining I will find it. And so I did. I came to the comforting realization that I am no different than anyone else. I am mortal. You’re thinking, how the hell is that comforting right? Look at it this way, nobody knows what comes next. We’re all in the same unsteady boat. Maybe because I have metastatic cancer, the future is bullying me into the present more than you, but what we have is the same.
Cancer or no cancer, as you read this, this very moment, this is it. Only, I have become more sensitive to it. Maybe I’ve been given a chance to let go of the future in order to focus on the now. Maybe I’ve been given an opportunity to make my future plans my present. This is something anyone can do, you may even be doing it. But I think so many of us sleep-walk through life, waiting for something to wake us up. Stage IV breast cancer woke me up.
I think what I’m getting at is that I may be sick and I may not have 30, 20 or 10 years ahead of me, but you may not either. Is it scary? Yeah. But do you live in fear of dying every day? Most likely not. So why should I? We’re all inevitably going to die. The hard part is living first.
I look at this diagnosis as an opportunity and a clean slate. To live the life I want. To spend the time I have doing things that bring me joy and to cherish each moment. I am focusing on today, on what’s important to me and on being a better and kinder person to those who are important to me. It’s certainly not easy but it’s the life I’ve been given and there’s no way I’m going to waste it.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Week
Until 2009, metastatic breast cancer was not often mentioned during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Nine metastatic breast cancer patients, including one of YSC’s early members, Randi Rosenberg, traveled to Washington, D.C. to change that. Their efforts resulted in the passing of a unanimous resolution by Congress declaring October 13 as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Metastatic (or stage IV) breast cancer is when cancer has left the breast and surrounding local area and moved to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones or brain. Once it has metastasized, there is no cure for breast cancer. The disease turns into a chronic condition with the goal to contain it for as long as possible. Every year, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer. That’s why we’re dedicating this entire week to raising awareness of metastatic breast cancer and advocating for more research on metastatic disease by featuring women who know firsthand what life is like living with stage IV.