I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time, how people said, "I know someone who has been living with breast cancer for 5 years now!" I remember thinking "5 years! I want 45 years." I was 34. I had a 15 month old baby. 5 years just didn't seem long enough.
When I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer just 4 1/2 years later....I didn't know what the road would be. I didn't know anyone who had lived for a long time after being given a 1 in 10 chance of survival over 5 years. While I knew women who had survived for 34 years after having a mastectomy, I simply didn't know anyone with stage 4 cancer.
Then I met more. Mostly young women. Some older women. Some, who like me, had recurrences after a number of years. Some sooner than others. I remember sitting in the treatment room with two other women getting infusions of Taxol. The oncology nurse used to giggle and call us "the three little Taxols, all in a row. " Now, there's just the one little Taxol survivor.
Being young, I thought I had a better change of surviving than most. Being strong, and ornery I knew I had a pretty good chance. I did lots of things to try to make sure that I lived. I had 9 twenty-four hour infusions of Taxol over a 9 month period. I had a mastectomy. I had high dose radiation to my pelvis. I thanked my lucky stars that the cancer came back as multiple (try in the thousands) loci tumors in my originally effected breast and as a bone metastasis in my pelvis. I thought that was a heck of a lot better than getting it in the other spots that it often hits, and I feared it in my brain....
Still...the decisions I made then had ramifications that I couldn't even begin to think of. Since the cancer was progesterone positive, I had my ovaries removed, as well as everything else because what was the point of keeping a uterus or a cervix if you could no longer have children? As a person who comes from a family with heart issues, being menopausal at age 38 was scary. I didn't know, however, about any of the other things which would prove to be difficult. There are many things which ARE difficult....painful...scary.
I thought I would share my observations, letting others know that there are others here. Explaining how I feel, so that others may understand. Raging at the beast...rejoicing in survivorship. Fearing. Hoping. Understanding. But, most of all, living.
Living with breast cancer is different...Only the ones who are directly hit with it...and by that I mean their friends and families as well, can even remotely understand.
For instance....lately, I have been having severe pain in my pelvis. Really bad. Making me limp around bad. Is it cancer? I don't know. I had a P.E.T. scan in late November which didn't show anything. Is it age? Is it muscle damage from the radiation? (The muscles there were heavily "toasted" and because of that, I have lack of range of motion in that area despite therapy...I just gave up on it). Is it arthritis? Does arthritis hit your pelvis other than at joints???? I don't know. No one else knows either. Knowing when to alert the oncologist....quandaries.
For anyone who has had cancer, you have a constant companion. Cancer is with you. While it fades into the background...it is always there and it comes back and reminds you of it's presence.
Is life bleak and worse? No. It's just different. Sometimes I get angry at having to live with it. Then I remind myself, I AM living with it. I'm the last little Taxol from the row.