Cancer. This is my new life. Metastatic Breast Cancer to be more specific and to even narrow it down more, metastatic breast cancer of the bone. I was officially diagnosed August 25, 2016. It has taken me over a month to not only get up the energy to think of a way to write about my new life, but the courage to write.
Something had not been right since at least May. I had been running about 2 miles once per week, then suddenly I started falling apart. In May, I thought I had pulled a back muscle… except pulled muscles do not usually take over two months to heal. I just knew that I was in a great deal of pain and had no idea why. My doctor had me go in for more blood work in July and I had some pretty strange results. Due to the results, he had me get a CT Scan which showed a mass in front of my sacrum (seeing the image, it looks like it is between my pelvic bone and intestines). We thought it was lymphoma.
I was sent to a hematologist. He had a bone biopsy done which showed that I do not have lymphoma. I had breast cancer. Which had spread into my skeleton. Which had made my skeleton very fragile. I am no longer allowed to have massage, chiropractic care, jog, or ride roller coasters. That last one actually upset me the most for a while.
I am now receiving a bone-strengthening treatment every 4 weeks. The first treatment was a doozy. I was unable to walk the next day. I felt as if all of my bones were crushing into each other. The pain was so bad that I had trouble talking. It was just as bad as un-medicated childbirth. I started my first radiation therapy the day after the bone therapy and I actually felt almost an instant relief. They targeted the mass in my gut which had been dancing around in my nerves, causing huge amounts of pain in my legs.
These early weeks were really dark for me. And I mean that on a lot of levels. When I look back to just two weeks ago, my whole world was just dark. I felt like I could not see the sun. My appetite was way down. I lost more weight than is healthy is for anyone, and which was dangerous for someone trying to survive with cancer. I was in constant pain.
A week ago, on September 20, I was admitted into the hospital due to a blood culture showing positive for either staph or some sort of infection. It was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in my life. While I was staying in my super expensive hospital-hotel waiting for more blood culture results, I met with a team of doctors who helped me to get my pain managed. They also helped me to start eating again. Turns out I needed an anti-nausea pill. I now have a palliative team. I met with an amazing Chaplin, Rainy. And I felt like a totally new person by the time I was discharged.
I also had some good news while in the hospital. I already knew that I had two of the three breast cancer markers: progesterone and estrogen driven. The third, Her2Nu, took a few more tests to figure out. Her2 is extremely virulent and would have only given me a life span of months. Especially with my really advanced cancer status. I do NOT have the Her2Nu marker. I am now able to look ahead at years with my cancer. As long as we are able to keep my cancer under control.
And it is that last sentence that is hard for a lot of people to understand. My cancer will not go away. It will not go into remission. I can not have surgery to remove it. I essentially have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. It is not something that my doctors will even say. And maybe the thought of it should put me into a puddle of hopelessness, but it hasn’t. Once I was able to get my pain and anorexia under control, I actually started to feel stronger. And angrier. How dare this disease invade my life? How dare it interrupt my family? It might cause my death in the future, but I will be fighting it.
My cancer has brought out some pretty awful things, but it has also brought out the best in my friends. The kindness and generosity of my support system has just blown me away. As has the newer support systems that I have been introduced to. The Warrior Sisterhood in particular. My local chapter has monthly meetings and I was given a lot of information and resources. I actually burst into tears with the booklet they gave to me. It contained a gift card which I will be using for new clothes. With all the weight that I have lost, none of my pants and most of my shirts do not fit me anymore. It seems like a silly thing to cry over, but it is nice to be able to have a little extra money to get a few shirts and jeans.
The worst part of this whole thing, for me, has been my kids. In fact, I still find myself struggling just to write about this. So, I am not even going to try.