It has been three years and eight months since I was told that my breast cancer had not only recurred, but had metastasized to my bones. All this time spent with my mortality staring me in the face, precariously perched on the edge of a precipice. Over three years of being grateful to wake up, yet waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I know I am one of the lucky ones.
With the median life expectancy for metastatic breast cancer at 36 months, I know how lucky I am to be here, to have woken up today. I got up, showered, took my son to school, and headed into work. My hips hurt and I have this electric shock-like pulse in the back of my skull, but I am here. I shouldn’t complain. Yet here I sit, in a sort of numb wariness, feeling just blahhh.
If I had my choice, I’d still be in bed, possibly crying, most likely just staring at the wall. I don’t want to be that person, but sometimes I know my inner, secret self is that girl just trying to pretend this isn’t happening. Today, I can already tell, will be one of those days where I just go through the motions of life, not really feeling as though I am living it.
This week has been a spiral of negativity.
Two days ago, I received my PET scan results from my oncologist. While not horrible, it is his wording during our discussion that is haunting me. Per my scan, I am about 90% stable, however three of my largest cancerous lesions on my bones are growing. I was actually surprised by this as I’ve been feeling relatively good and active lately. My oncologist does not want to change my current treatment regimen of Aromasin and Affinator because, as he said, my next option is chemo. According to him, I have “blown through my aromatase inhibitors too quickly”.
This statement is like a shovel full of dirt from my grave.
For those who don’t know, my cancer is hormone (estrogen) receptor positive. Because of this type of cancer, I have been on medications (called aromatase inhibitors) for the last almost four years to decrease the amount of estrogen my body produces in order to give the cancer less to feed on, limiting its ability to grow and spread. I have already been on Tamoxifen, Ibrance, Letrozole, and Faslodex prior to the current two I am taking. I have also had surgery to remove my ovaries to even further hinder estrogen production.
With cancer treatment, you can never go backwards. Once I have used up my last anti-hormonal option, it’s all chemo, and progressively worse chemotherapy at that. I know that I am fortunate to be here this long and to have been able to get here with the treatments I have had. I have even been told (more times than I care to think about) that I have the “good” cancer because it is only in my bones. Never say this to anyone, there is no good cancer.
In my mind, I cannot help but think about what this means for me, for my son. In theory, not all chemotherapies force you make major life changes or have the visual evidence of cancer present. Hopefully, I am still a way off from having to stop working, losing my hair, or being unable to play with my son in the backyard. Hearing those words just forces me to see it all as I did, the fear of what is to come, the same way I saw it when I was first diagnosed.
I am scared.
To add to this already difficult week is the minutiae that comes with living. An argument with a friend that you put a lot of faith in, now fractured. The need to pick up groceries and clean the house. Trying to figure out how to get my adorable dog to stop chewing up every damn thing she can get into her mouth. Bills. Pain. The damn ending of Avengers Infinity War (I have a 7 year old son, y’all).
The irritants and disappointments in life are mere pebbles when faced with the falling boulder of terminal cancer. I am not thinking about fractured friendships or cleaning my house…I am thinking about my son, having to see his mother bald and sick. I am scared of dying, but it is leaving my child that tears me apart. Hearing those words from my doctor was a fresh reminder of what this life has in store for me…and my son.
So today may be hard, but I will go on.
Actually, every day may be hard, but it will not deter me from living my best life. I will laugh when I catch my son singing “Jones BBQ and foot massage” (thank you internet, for that one), and I will get groceries because the thing about kids is you have to feed them. My house may not be as clean as I want it, but no one is calling the health department anytime soon. I watch Hoarders, I know I am still good. As for a falling out with friends? As any cancer patient will tell you, we lose friends all the time. It is how we know that the ones still there are our real ones…and I have plenty of real friends.
As for my head…well, the doctor did say my recent brain MRI showed I had a normal brain, so I am sure I will get past this. I have learned to live with fear. My normal brain and I will focus on the 90% good news and whatever comes next, I will face that too.
I always do.