As I write this I am within one year of my stage IV breast cancer diagnosis. The cycle of emotions has been intense. With that said, my experiences below are a reflection of who I am, just as yours will be a reflection of who you are. But I have learned that metastatic breast cancer patients tend to have much in common. And thus my hope for you, the new patient, is that as you read this page you might find some validation of what you are experiencing and that the non-patient, who might be reading this, might find a sense of understanding. I refer to the support group of METAvivor because I am a member.
I have metastatic breast cancer.
As I stripped my bed pillow of its two cases, I saw the tear stains. What did I expect after crying myself to sleep night after night? There is little in life that prepares you for hearing “You have metastatic breast cancer.” I kept thinking – how could this be! It had been thirteen years since my first breast cancer. I knew no one with MBC. By shear happenstance, I found the support of the women of METAvivor. I was not alone anymore.
Telling family and friends.
When telling my family about the MBC I found myself trying to cushion the blow. I did not use the word “metastatic”. I did not say “stage IV”. I did not want to hurt the ones I loved. I got teary-eyed but stayed calm and in control. On the other hand, I let loose on a few good friends. They cried and cursed with me. As the first year of MBC progressed I sensed that they did not really understand the constancy, the “foreverness” of this disease. My family and friends are still there for me but the connection with other MBC patients has filled what would have been a void.
The impact of getting stage IV cancer news did not end with the announcement. It hung over me, enveloped me twenty-four/seven. It took me months to work through the grieving process. I had lost my health and peace of mind. The cancer was getting in my way. I had been in a “good place”, had found a “good pace” to my life. To cope I cleaned, threw out, made huge donations to Goodwill! I tried to exhaust myself so I could sleep. That didn’t work. Almost a year later I have come through the grieving process relatively intact. The fear and anger creep back at times. Finding the balance between living and being on the edge is tough.
The docs, the tests.
I trust my doctors. I have confidence in them. I could not stay with them if I didn’t. I bring my list of questions to every visit. They do not have all the answers or the answers I wish. To cope with the testing, I am friendly with the nurses and lab techs and joke around. I just want to get to the other end of the test. Afterwards, I will either go eat a big bowl of baked ziti or buy jewelry!
On a regular basis I go to the Medical Center for an injection. Simple enough. Except for the first time when I went and looked up at the huge label on the wall of the building: Cancer Center. #&%$*! I really do have cancer – again.
I also take a little white pill every day. No skipping a day! The good news: it is doing what it is supposed to do! It took me a while before I could read the information about the drugs I am taking to keep me alive. I say it like that on purpose because all drugs have side affects. Again, it is the women of METAvivor who are teaching me to not only live with MBC but also to live with the drugs that make living possible.
Living with stage IV breast cancer.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I have acquired a new normal. The ol’ “one step at a time” really is true. There have been days when I can find my peace in my own place. For me though that is not enough because I am not yet finished living. I find a need to get beyond myself and help others in whatever little ways I can. Previous life trials have taught me to “stop and smell the roses.” Now, I have an urgency to plant more roses. I have decided: I am me, not cancer, and I am still here.
More patients speak about being newly diagnosed with MBC …