It’s been three years since my diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer metastasized to my bones. During that time I’ve had radiation twice, extensive spinal surgery, and a third attempt, through chemotherapy, at stopping the cancer from growing.
I’ve barely had a chance to reflect or grieve what has happened to me; it’s been all about keeping me alive.
Not too long ago we went for a consult at City of Hope. They have a team of doctors that specializes in metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer that has moved from its original site to other areas in the body. We had a consultation with one of the specialists who was very informative and explained to us the chemotherapies that I can try. Each chemotherapy has its own average amount of time that it’s effective at stopping the cancer from growing. Unfortunately cancer is smart. After a while it figures out how to get around the chemotherapy and continue to grow. At that point the cancer patient moves on to another chemotherapy. Unfortunately, I have only one chemotherapy left. I’m hoping and praying that the one I’m on will keep me alive long enough for a cure.
Where does this leave me now? I’ve been so focused on staying alive and managing my pain that I haven’t thought about the future. When we were at City of Hope, we asked the doctor my prognosis and how long I’ll live. She gave us her honest estimate, three years. Wow, three years! That is not what we wanted to hear. We had no idea. We thought I was doing really well. It turns out I was doing only average. Average. And average for metastatic breast cancer is five years.
This took a while to process and accept. Now that I’m on the chemotherapy that has stopped my previous terrible cancer pain, I’ve had time to think. I’ve had time to process what’s happened to me and how much my life has changed. One real loss is that I’m no longer working. I no longer have my identity as a photographer. I no longer see the numerous people I saw every single day that I was working. I’m now home by myself every day.
I’m creating art now. Painting, drawing and mixed media. It gives me some sense of purpose and the activity helps to pass my days.
We moved to a new area to provides me a place where I can to walk and see trees and parks. And I have a little garden that I attend to. But it’s not enough for this type A personality!
It’s time for me to start my serving purpose. Maybe it’s been my purpose along and it took the cancer to get me to start. I have some things to share. Stories, life advice, and daily life survival tips. Because I’ve been through it all and I need to share it all.