Cancerversary #3, 2017-2020

Three (3) years ago today, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my doctor told me that two (2) to three (3) years was the median life expectancy I could expect. He did tell me that people with bone only metastasis could potentially look at a life expectancy of up to ten (10) years but that only unicorns/outliers made it that long. It was an incredibly difficult day for me and my family.

And now I’ve lived those three years since my diagnosis with MBC.

I’m at the end of the median life expectancy and it’s a weirdly uncomfortable feeling. On the one hand, I’m incredibly grateful for the time I’ve had and will have with my husband, my children, my family, my dear friends, and the amazing men and women I’ve met during the last three years. On the other hand, coming to the end of what I was told to expect is oddly terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

After three years, you’d think that I would have this cancer having thing figured out. I really don’t.

You’d also think I’d be super excited to have reached this milestone. Yet, I’m entirely ambivalent about it.

Yes, I’m incredibly blessed to have been able to reach this milestone and to be feeling as well as I am. No one is more aware of how amazing it is to have been able to live this long with a terminal illness, than I. And yet, I think survivors guilt comes into play with all the amazing men and women who are dying every day — approximately 116 men and women every single day in the United States. The more I get involved with the metastatic community, the more friends I’ve been connected with have died.

I have chosen to lean in, to connect with other cancer havers, to attend conferences, to learn, to advocate, and to immerse myself in this new world I’m living in. This has been my choice and all of these things have helped me to deal with my own diagnosis. I’m glad to have learned all I have learned; I’m far richer for connecting with all the amazing men and women over the past three years. Yes, cancer is a gigantic part of my life and it’s working for me as I deal with living with the specter of death looming over me.

And yet, the price of that immersion is loss. Losses that could be prevented. Losses that wouldn’t have happened if research into metastatic breast cancer was prioritized. Losses that shatter my heart over and over.

I read a statement when I was newly a mom that said something along the lines of: Having a child means having to live with part of your heart walking around outside your body. While getting close to another terminal patient is very different from the relationship between mother and child, this idea holds true for me. Getting close to other terminal patients does mean that parts of my heart are walking around outside my body with some precious human beings; human beings whose lives have been and will be cut drastically short.

At the end of three (3) years, I haven’t had any epiphanies; yes, my life is different and arguably better because of the choices we’ve made to avoid stress and unhealthy things, but I’m not of the opinion that cancer itself has made my life better. Cancer has irrevocably changed my life and dealing with those changes has affected every part of my life and the lives of everyone who is around me. Have those changes been for the better? Overall, I think most of the changes have been for the better, but due to the response we’ve had to my diagnosis, not because of cancer.

I have a 25%ish chance to live two more years. That’s my next goal line. And I’m going to be advocating and learning and living my best life every day until I get there.

33 thoughts on “Cancerversary #3, 2017-2020

  1. I can totally relate to your mixed emotions. Cancer is such a roller coaster ride. But I am rejoicing that you’ve made it this far AND that you are continuing to reach out to others along the way. So many people shut themselves off to that because it’s too hard. Yet loving others deeply to their last breath, as painful as it is, is the most important thing ❤️

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    1. Aww, thanks! I’m hopeful to be a unicorn, although that comes with its own challenges. Sadly, the ones who are able to beat the odds are ones with a low disease load. They stopped counting my bone Mets once they got to 100,000, so I have an extraordinarily high disease load. I do know that humans are not in control and if God wants me to be a unicorn, I will be. Just waiting to see what He has decided. Love and light to you!!

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  2. Thank you for continuing to share your heart with us. I am thanking God for every day of your life. What a gift that you are able to see the blessings. Praying strength and focus as you continue the work God has called you to. And I always pray for rich family times with your precious ones. 💕

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  3. I have only been following your blog for a short time, but I have a feeling you will be in that 25 percent! Thank you for sharing all that you do! In May I will have my one year cancerversary.

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  4. You leave me speechless with your attitude, Abigail. Raw honesty, and I love it. No epiphanies, no exuberance and exhilaration at the milestone. I can only imagine what it must be like but I anticipate I’d be an emotional wreck, trying to get that far and facing such uncertainty. You kick ass and I hope you continue to lean in, live life as fully as you can, squeeze out every last drop  for today, tomorrow or even hopefully all the years to come ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
    Caz xxxx

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  5. “You’d think that I would have this cancer thing figured out…”

    He’ll, no. That would be an impossibility. What you have done seems to me more remarkable. You’ve found a way to live intensely and squeeze meaning out of every day. You’ve devoted yourself to educating others—both those afflicted and those who need to know more. You’ve opened yourself to love despite your awareness of imminent loss.

    We are blessed by your being, Abigail. I believe you will be written up in an oncology journal many years hence as the unicorn who exceeded all scientific expectations, inspiring clinicians to view each of their patients with fresh eyes and greater determination.
    As you say: Light and love.💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. >And I’m going to be advocating and learning and living my best life every day until I get there.<

    Most above me have said what I could say, and said it much more eloquently than I. However, since I've found your blog, I can say that your honesty with all around you pushes your reader (and me) to do better every day. Thank you for including us in your journey. May it continue for many, many years. ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

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