Living with metastatic breast cancer for over nine years, I’m far too familiar with the lingo. Upon hearing the news for the first time, people often respond with “Put up a good fight!” or “Sorry to hear you’re battling this disease. ”I’m not at war. I’ve never been in the military, so stop using these terms like I can relate. I can’t. I think the automated response is to use these expressions because it’s what society has been using for years. It’s an accepted slogan on T-shirts, banners, mugs, even Hallmark cards. The truth is, these terms are crippling when the disease progresses in my metastatic world. It’s not “if” but “when” it will progress. It makes me feel that I have to put on a bold front daily or hide my underlying feelings of fear as it will be viewed as losing this said “battle”.
On Monday, August 4, 2014 at 2:10pm, I was diagnosed with Mets to Bone upon reading the results of an MRI. I had been complaining of hip pain for several months, already had X-rays, physical therapy, psoad massage, acupuncture and voluntarily put myself on crutches for 6 weeks, hoping it was only a stress fracture. I’ve been an athlete my entire life and had been heavily competing in triathlons that summer. The hip flexor pain became excruciating and unbearable. Ibuprofen stopped masking the pain after a while. The news was devastating. I’m a Holistic Nutritionist who was working as a college professor at the time. I was teaching Pharmacology. I was fluent in all the terminology being tossed my way, but it wasn’t making any sense. I’m a ball of energy that consumes primarily organic foods, I don’t own a microwave, use plastic containers and I work out every day. Healthy people don’t get cancer. I learned quickly that cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Since the news on that day was a bombshell, I was immediately admitted as emergency surgery was scheduled in two days to stabilize my femur that had a 9mm tumor and was fractured in three places. Mind you, I walked into this office without assistance, now I was in a wheelchair. As doctors scrambled to schedule multiple tests to determine where the cancer originated, I went numb. Time to process took a pause. Once it was finalized that it was metastatic breast cancer to bone, word spread like wildfire. Copious amounts of messages flooded my phone and social media. I quickly became irritated with the words “battle” or “fight”. I prefer to say I’m in a conversation with my cancer. Since it’s here to stay, I mind as well get used to it. I talk to it. Reassure it that I can take on what it throws my way. It’s simply a different road than I planned for my life.
I have always been a strong believer that what I throw out to the universe comes back to me. If I throw a punch (to fight), I run the risk of being punched back harder. I’m not interested in that lifestyle. I prefer dialogue with this disease. Advances in pharmacology, treatment options and managing symptoms have progressed in the past several years. I discuss options with my oncologist. I welcome the conversation and support of others in my breast cancer groups. If I put myself in “battle” mode, I can create stress that otherwise didn’t exist. It would create feeling of pressure before each scan. I walk into my CT scans now dressed to the nines and ask for my gluten-free cocktail for the party. Again, it’s my way of conversing with my cancer. I embrace it. I can sit on my couch and manifest symptoms or I can go out and live my life every day. I choose the latter.
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