4th Cancerversary

Amazingly enough, today marks four (4) years, forty-eight (48) months, two hundred and eight (208) weeks, one thousand four hundred sixty (1,460) days, thirty-five thousand forty hours (35,040), two million one hundred two thousand four hundred (2,102,400) minutes, and one hundred twenty-six million one hundred forty-four thousand (126,144,000) seconds since I was told “you have breast cancer.”

Whew, just typing all of that out was a lot!

Every time I think about milestones and how much has changed since March 8, 2017, I am blown away. That was the day when I heard that I had cancer and that we thought it was early stage such that I would undergo treatment and emerge on the other side to re-engage with life as I knew it. I remember that Elliot and I walked out of the room where the breast surgeon (who was also a radiologist) gave us the results and into another room where her nurse set us up with more information and more appointments than we knew what to do with. In the blink of an eye, I had an entire team of doctors used to working seamlessly together, communicating via cell phones and arranging care directly between doctors.

And everything began to happen so very fast. I had to make so many decisions about every aspect of my life in a short period of time with limited understanding of what was going on. Whether it’s who I am or my personality or whatever, I’m not the type of person who normally looks back and regrets decisions that I made with the information I knew at the time I made a decision. To me, there is little point in bemoaning what could have been when all my energy is required to face today and what is. At the same time, here’s a few things I think could have been done differently.

First of all, that original breast surgeon who was also a radiologist who told me that I had cancer was amazing; at the same time, she only did genetic testing for BRCA 1&2 rather than the entire forty (40) gene panel associated with genetic breast cancer risks. It would be a few months later that we realized that I carry the ATM genetic mutation and my care had to be adjusted from there. If I was in the office learning that information knowing what I know now, I would have asked for the full panel.

Secondly, I would have reached out to more people going through the same experience. Back in 2017, I thought that my business would be too negatively affected by me disclosing openly that I was being treated for breast cancer and I kept the news very very private. That meant that I had little interest in attending support groups or connecting with other women who knew what I was going through. I’d be more apt to reach out if I had it to do over again.

Third, I would have focused on adjusting my life and the things I was involved with to give myself the space to truly accommodate the experience of breast cancer rather than forcing the breast cancer treatment to revolve around the things present in my life then. At the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2017, we thought I was stage IIb and it was reasonable to assume that I’d finish treatment and be done with it. What I didn’t understand then was that there was no going back to “normal,” life changed irrevocably and everything needed to be re-evaluated through that lens.

Fourth, I had so many expectations of how others would step up to support me given what I’d done over the years for others. While I can’t say that I did things in order to receive something back, I did have a sense that those I’d supported over the years would feel some sort of pull or desire to pay it back. When that didn’t happen, I struggled with the relationships and struggled to understand why I was struggling. I’ve learned to limit my expectations of others and not to impose what I would do on them.

Fifth, I know that some people in my life didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what to tell them. Even some of the struggle in point number 4 above might have been ameliorated if I’d been able to communicate better and point number 2 above would have helped me to gather the information that would help me better communicate. I’ve learned over the last 4 years that being clear and specific about what I need is so much better than being upset that someone has trampled on an expectation that I didn’t communicate.

That’s my top 5 things and I don’t spend time beating myself up over not doing these things because I did the best I could with the information I had. If you are newly diagnosed and attempting to figure out how to navigate this brand new experience, I hope these nuggets might give you a starting place to figure out your next steps.

For now, I’ll bask in the fact that I’ve lived for four (4) years with malicious cells running around inside my body unsuccessfully trying to kill me. With everything that I’ve done from traditional treatment to complimentary care to diet changes to eliminating stress and toxic people and expectations from my life, I’m still alive and the cancer has been wrestled into submission for now. I don’t know what the next scan, the next treatment, the next experience will bring, but I can say to death, #NotToday.

56 thoughts on “4th Cancerversary

  1. Amazing post! I think what stood out for me in your advice was the importance of advocating for one’s self. I guess for family and supporters, it’s important to create space for and encourage our loved one to do that. What do you think?

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    1. Yes, it’s so important for family and friends to allow the patient the space to figure out what they need and then support them in getting it. It can take some time to find ones voice in the midst of the trauma that is a serious diagnosis (cancer or otherwise). Knowing that you as the patient has the “permission” for lack of a better term to speak up is so key.

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  2. Thank you for this! My 4th year Cancerversary was the day before yours, March 7th. The lessons of cancer and life are ongoing, but I appreciate your honesty and sharing your journey. #NotToday!

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  3. Your resilience and perspective always inspires and educates me. Thank you for keeping up your blogs and being so transparent with your treatment, struggles, fears, emotions…with everything! It’s what we need to hear and understand but writing it out surely must also be exhausting. So grateful for #NotToday 🙏❤️🙏❤️

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    1. Thank you so much, Joan! I am happy to share the things I’ve learned along the way to benefit others since I struggled a lot in the beginning to figure out what to do with all the parts of this living with MBC thing.

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  4. While I know this wasn’t what you expected from life but you’ve managed to take devastating loss and turn it around to help someone else. You’ve chosen to put gold in the cracks to make you whole, making you more perfect and beautiful as you put gold into the cracks of others. Thank you!

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  5. “Not Today.” I love that and I hope you have many more days where you can say that. May I add that to my litany? I am always glad to read your words; they help me get through things, teach me, make me a better person. (I am waiting to hear about the results of obliterating the pesky met!) I don’t like looking back at life and thinking about what I’d do differently but one thing I definitely would do is QUIT working because people there were quite toxic. That’s just one thing …

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  6. First of all, wow, just wow. I admire you so much. How strong you are, and how you had the capability to not just survive through something as hard as breast cancer, but emerge from the other side of this experience as an even greater woman. Just wanted to pop in and mention that March 8 is International Women’s Day, and I don’t know, I found that to be something that you could perhaps extract motivation from in the future, since International Women’s day is all about women empowering each other. Once again, you amaze me ❤

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    1. Appreciate the wishes and the suggestion. Since Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) is terminal, there is no “other side” for me as MBC will kill me eventually and I’m on treatment for life. In March of 2017, we didn’t yet know this since it would take until June of that year for the appropriate tests to be run. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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      1. I’m so sorry, but I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot of times. But knowing this makes me admire you even more, because you’re still so…positive (?), you don’t let this affect the way you perceive life, and that’s something that we should all learn

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  7. Thanks for sharing your insights, Abigail. I am sure your lessons/insights/discoveries will help others. Your #5 speaks to me: When my wife and I navigated her breast cancer we found that so many well-meaning friends, colleagues, family, and others just did not know what to do or say. After chemo finished I wrote (with my wife’s input, blessings, and veto power) two blog posts: “Thanks. You’re Helping” (https://thegrowthandresiliencenetwork.net/2016/04/17/308-thanks-youre-helping/) and “Thanks. You’re NOT Helping” (https://thegrowthandresiliencenetwork.net/2016/04/24/309-thanks-youre-not-helping/). Both were offered with love and the hope to assist people who may be struggling when they hear those words: “I have cancer.” Again, thank you for sharing your insights. You are inspirational.

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  8. Congratulations on your Cancerversary, Abagail. What a milestone, and I’m so happy that your nasty cancer cells are submitting to your treatment and will. May they continue their submission for a very long time. I identify with how you started your journey. But you’ve convinced me to be more active, if only to reblog your great posts.

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      1. It’s a service you provide to women of the world, Abagail. I hope more of yours and mine reblog your posts. I haven’t seen anything as helpful and real for women with cancer.

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  9. First-time visitor over from Marsha’s. I don’t claim to know a lot about this horrible villain, so I will keep it short. , I applaud your attitude & the successes of the past four years. My mother battled breast cancer over 30 years ago, so I know the medical community has made progress – but still has a way to go. Keep your head up and keep smiling.

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    1. Oh yes they have a ways to go but I’m the direct beneficiary of trials that happened within the last 5-10 years so yes, I know there has been a lot of progress! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment. ❤️

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  10. You have done wonderfully through it all, I feel happiness for you and all those who have the privilege of living your circle of influence. I hope you are basking in the light. What a celebration. 🌷🌹💖✨

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a great celebration of holding back that adversary of ‘malicious cells running around inside my body unsuccessfully trying to kill me’. Trying not to rehash the past is difficult but perhaps it’s good if it can help others make better decisions or just get through.

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    1. Agreed! I don’t spend any time bemoaning what was or what I did with the information available to me then, but I do try to find nuggets of wisdom to pass along. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

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