On the same day that I learned of my cancer progression, I also found out I had COVID-19. Here’s how I handled that dark period of life.
I returned home from being at cancer camp (that is whole other blog article, I promise), and the following day I had my quarterly scans to monitor my stage 4 breast cancer. Typically, I have scananxiety, but being at camp, I had lost a lot of it, and was more relaxed this time around.
My cancer progressed with new spots to my lower spine, right hip and sacrum. Previously, I had four spots evenly split between my sternum and spine, which was treated with radiation back in fall of 2019, and I had been on Ibrance (palbociclib) and Arimidex (anastrozole) ever since.
However, my new treatment will now be Kisqali (ribociclib) plus faslodex since my prior meds stopped working in June 2022, which is when I received my last stable cancer scans. This news was scary, jaw-dropping, dark and grim, because it meant my cancer was still growing and out of control. The only single light I could find here was that it had only progressed to my bones; that was the best gift I could ask for out of it. Yes, I had gratitude for cancer stopping at my bones.
My life turned upside down even further when I was informed that some of my campmates had tested positive for COVID-19, which led to my seeking out testing, and also testing positive for the virus. This was the same day as my cancer progression news, to which my husband jokingly said, “the devil struck twice.”
At first, I was asymptomatic, but very quickly, I had severe body aches, 102-degree fever, exhaustion, etc. I was even prescribed paxlovid, which usually is for “high-risk people,” but apparently, I finally fell in that category. I was so grateful for the medication, but it gave me the worst sour, metallic taste ever! I think the only cure for it was lemonade and chewing mints and mint gum or washing my mouth out with mouthwash.
I was 10 days into this crazy nightmare before I started to feel better. I was fortunate enough to work at home for this situation, thanks to my amazing boss and job, but I still had to take a half sick dayand go to some doctors’ appointments while I was pretty sick.
I took this time to decorate our house for fall, watch all “America’s Got Talent” current season and read a few books. I took the sourest of lemons and make lemonade out of it… you just may not want to drink it.
During the same 10 days of chaos, I made the decision to build boundaries to withdraw myself from some toxic relationships. It was a hard decision to make, but I knew deep down, I had to protect my mental health and emotional wellbeing. Self-care going through cancer is a hard choice, but ultimately, something I need for survival. I see it as I need to focus on my well-being while going through this progression, and if my needs of comfort and support in these relationships aren’t being met, then I must remove myself in order to thrive.
It’s a hard lesson, and it is still gutting me, but I do not let the guilt creep up on me. Boundaries, and removing toxicity are a source of light that is hard to see in the short term, since it has so many emotions attached to it. Light might come in stronger in days to come, but for it just may “peek” in.
As if I hadn’t emotionally and mentally exhausted myself yet, I didn’t feel trust and assurance from my current oncology team for my new treatment plan. Two years ago, I left my previous oncology team to come to my current happy place, because I felt like my voice and my concerns were being heard and felt better at the practice I switched to.
However, it’s beginning to get very rocky again — not the exact oncology team, but the whole experience is going south. I decided it’s time for a second opinion and to see if a new perspective helps. Getting a second opinion will also either A) confirm new treatment plan, or B) learn new information about other options, or even possibly C) a combination of both. It’s a source of light I am so looking forward to.
During these days of darkness, I’ve searched for light in other ways. My greatest sources of light are: reaching out to Team Sunshine; listening to my playlist called “Sunshine” on Spotify; walking outsidewith our dogs to literally feel the sunshine; writing (such as this blog entry); and simply being alive.
That last one might sound silly, but every day I try to find another way to find be happy for life — putting my bare feet on grass, licking the beaters, wearing red lipstick to be bold, rolling the car windows down and pretending to be a dog enjoying every second of fresh air, lighting the house with candlesand turning my phone off as much as possible.
My darkest days did a number on me; I became on the verge of depression, with every part of me breaking with grief. I absorbed the grief, cried, screamed and hated it. I was gutted inside and out. I also recognized I needed moments of light. I knew I would find some, but I’d have to create a lot of it.
Darkness isn’t normal for me. It’s very uncomfortable for me. I like to think though I mixed in some light into the dark, and now, maybe I’m a hazy grey with a sunshine horizon.
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