Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer: My Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
I led a fairly charmed life up until about the age of 29. I had a loving family, I was always surrounded by good friends, and for whatever reason, life just always seemed to work out for me. I know it sounds strange and maybe even a little arrogant, but I have always known in the back of my mind that life was going to work out in my favor. I was the gal who had a flat tire 100 yards from the tire shop. Seriously, that's a true story.
I had a boss who liked to say, when one door closes, open a window. I guess you could say I made it my personal credo in life. When my initial stage 2 breast cancer treatment left us wondering if we’d be able to have biological children, we decided not to leave our family up to chance. We went ahead and pursued adoption and Henry was the most amazing reward!
And when my stage 4 recurrence threatened our new family, I bought a wig and held my head up high. This was our little family and we had worked too hard to let cancer stand in our way now. Chris declared we were going to be the ones to beat the odds and we decided to do what we do best — We’d roll with it.
Now, almost four years later, my breast cancer has spread to my lungs, liver, bones and brain. The gold standard drugs have all failed me and now the doctors are asking me what I want to do next. I’m at the point in my treatment where I’m too educated to believe I can live with metastatic breast cancer for three decades like a chronic disease, but I’m still holding on to the hope of seeing a game-changing medical breakthrough in my lifetime.
I’m sad to admit my faith has officially been shaken. People talk about bumps in the road? Let’s just say I’ve had the summer of potholes and ditches. In July, I underwent whole brain radiation to try and zap those pesky brain mets we’ve been watching over the past year. I lost my voice as a result of palliative radiation, forcing me to relinquish my last vice left: my morning coffee. And to top it off, I went to Houston to enroll in a clinical trial and I wound up hospitalized for almost a week with a nasty case of pneumonia.
After a two-week delay for recovery, I have finally enrolled in the trial, but the new chemo is a whopper. So far, it has pretty much made me a grouchy, emotional lump on the couch. I’m only on round 1, day 5 and I’m really hoping it gets better soon. In a few days, I’ll make the four-hour drive back to Houston for another chemo infusion. Glutton for punishment, you ask? Nope. Just living in stage 4. I have no choice but to take my beating, muster whatever strength I can to get back up, then face another round.
Through everything, normalcy has always been my goal, because it helps me believe my world isn’t really spinning out of control. But when you’re not feeling well, just getting out of bed can feel like climbing Mt. Everest and with a super active three-year-old (who doesn’t even nap!), that mountain has to be climbed every single day, no matter how I’m feeling. Right now, I’m not physically able to take Henry to his swim lessons or play dates or even to the grocery store. This reminds me that life is not normal, no matter how hard I pretend.
I learned at a young age to strike the phrase, “life is not fair,” from my mind. Because as a wise man whom I respect a great deal often reminds me, “no one ever told you it would be.”
Even though I don’t expect life to be fair, I am beginning to wonder if everything really is going to work out in my favor. I don’t like having pessimistic thoughts, but I have to be honest — I’m struggling both emotionally and physically with this one.
As I sit here, facing indefinite rounds of a tough chemo that I so desperately need to beat back the cancer beast with a vengeance, science seems to be the one thing that can restore my optimistic outlook on life. I’m growing increasingly impatient waiting for something to happen. I need a scientific breakthrough and I need it now!
While I wait for science to restore my optimism, this prom queen is going to do everything in my power to keep my eye on the prize: I love my life and I will do whatever it takes to hold onto it. So tell me stage 4 peeps ... what’s your secret to putting one foot in front of the other, when you’re barely hanging on by a thread?