As I sit here drinking my Kombucha, which I drink daily but it has to be away from my husband because it literally makes him gag and throw up in his mouth, I am reflecting on the past year. Truth is, I live in two different worlds. Cancer world and non-cancer world. I get frustrated with both because the two worlds don’t really “mesh”. For me, having terminal cancer is a full time job. I used to have a “real” full time job (and part-time) and had no trouble combining everything and making it work, as it should be. Cancer doesn’t really combine with anything. As I have moved onto the maintenance part of my treatment and therapy, my hair is growing back, I can use my hands again and tie a shoe or button something, my skin has its color back, I don’t LOOK like a person that has Stage 4 terminal cancer. I can walk up a set of stairs and not have to sit down half way because I am all winded, short of breath and have chest pain. I am not taking my temperature every 20 minutes, every single day. I am not fixated on my blood counts. I weigh over 100 lbs. I sleep at night. I have all of my finger nails and toe nails ( I know, gross, that was worse than losing my hair). I don’t feel like the walking dead anymore. To be honest, I don’t feel like I have cancer every second of every day anymore. This is where my two “worlds” don’t mesh. Almost on a daily basis, I hear “I can’t believe how good you look” or “you don’t look like you have breast cancer” or “you don’t look like you are on chemo” or “you don’t look sick” the list goes on and on. I also hear “judging by how you look, you must be done with treatment” or ” did you beat it yet?”
Breast Cancer is not one size fits all. I have been fortunate enough to meet some extraordinary women (and a couple men) who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at all stages from 0-4. Triple positive to triple negative and everything in between. I belong to some wonderful support groups and advocacy groups for both breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer. I have to be honest and say that before I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I didn’t really know what it was. Breast cancer was breast cancer. Pink ribbons were pink ribbons and we all knew what they meant. This goes back to the old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, you just can’t. I may look one way but I have these effing cancer cells that have set up shop in my body and are looking to take it over. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY I hit a reset button on my strength-o-meter and live my life.
As much as it pains me to say this, I believe that being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer has made me a better person. There is no longer a selfish or judgmental bone in my body. There are no more excuses. I love my life and I love the role model I have become and will continue to be for my children. They are proud of me and I am so proud of them.
Early detection wasn’t going to save me. I painfully know that now and I am perfectly okay with it now.
If I am struggling, I still go back to”The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief”. These stages do not happen in any specific order, nor do they last as long as each other. My definition of them is different than the next person, but they were/are absolutely necessary for me.
- Denial and isolation
Now, while I don’t have an expiration date yet, I do have a shorter lease on life than most. I can no longer hear someone say “I might get hit by a bus, you never know” but I love hearing that I don’t look sick anymore (I’m sure my kids do too) so thank you for all the love and support and helping me get the strength every day to hit that reset button.