March 8, 2017, I received my breast cancer diagnosis and on June 21, 2017, I was told that I had actually been Stage IV from the beginning (aka de novo). I’ve marked the former as my cancerversary for the last two years and yet the latter needs some sort of acknowledgement. It was the latter diagnosis that has literally upended my life while we were still struggling to assimilate the idea of cancer.
That day, a Thursday and the day before my second AC infusion, is irrevocably seared into my memory. The call, early in the day, that I needed to come in, didn’t matter the time, just come. I was in the middle of prepping for a hearing and couldn’t just drop that, so I prepped, went to the hearing and then went to my doctor’s office. Elliot insisted on coming with me, he intuitively knew it was bad. I was in denial and initially told him not to come, that he’d already missed too much work due to my medical appointments and surgeries.
When my first medical oncologist (he retired in late 2017) gave me the news that’s I’d actually been Stage IV for a while, it was paralyzing. My ability to think just stopped and all I could visualize was my kids. I’m sure my doctor gave us some details, but the only detail I remember from the conversation was when he mentioned 10 years as a potential life span. I seized on that comment and asked some clarifying questions. My doctor immediately stopped me and said that 10 years was considered an outlier and that the life expectancy was closer to 2. He talked up the progress made with chemotherapeutic drugs in recent years and was kind and gentle. The very features that I didn’t like in him initially, because it felt paternalistic then, were the very things that I appreciated the most at the time of him delivering such devastating news.
So here I am, I’ve been knowingly living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer for over 2 years. I’m sure the actual time I’ve had cancer has been longer than 2 years because back on June 21, 2017, I learned that the cancer lesions were in literally every bone. It took some time for that to happen and I’d been feeling pain for several months in the area where a 5 cm tumor had put down roots.
There are things I know now that sometimes I wish I knew then, but in reality the last two years have served as a way to assimilate and understand my diagnosis. I couldn’t have done that more quickly I don’t think. It has literally taken this time to adjust to this new life, these new parameters, the new end point and my new goals.
Cancer has changed everything and has taken a great deal away, yet there is still magic, there are still memories to be made and I’m alive today.
That I’m alive today is something I’m learning to EMBRACE. Today I get to be here with my boys and that’s the most important thing right now.