Love and Grief in the Metastatic Community
Last updated: April 2023
It is an unusual thing, to be thirty-seven years old and watch so many of your peers pass away, one after the other. I am reminded of my Grandmother. She was in her eighties when, all of a sudden, it seemed as if all of her friends began to die. There was a time when it was seemingly endless; Marjorie, Josie, Glenda, Rosalie. Always another, and another.
Never did I think I would experience this in my thirties. For me, it isn't family matriarchs leaving behind grandchildren and great-grandchildren, decades of service at their chosen professions or charities.
It is mothers with young children, those who had barely had a chance to make a dent in their careers. For me, it's Katrina, Emily, Addie, Rebekah, and many others. Never getting the chance to see their children grow up, or learn how much they'd achieve in life if simply given the chance to live.
Death is a reality when living with metastatic breast cancer
It's a clandestine thing, really, the idea of death in the metastatic community. Most of us know we are going to die of breast cancer one day. Unless, of course, you are one of the lucky ones that become a unicorn. Generally speaking, though, we live with knowing it's not a matter of if, but when.
And that is a very scary reality to live in. Nevertheless, we befriend one another. We reach out, make connections. Love. Knowing all the while, we might have to say goodbye to that friend almost as quickly as we said hello. We love them anyway.
Death comes in waves
Like most things in life, death comes in waves. Sometimes, it will seem as if it has been a very long time since someone has died. And then I'll hear someone say they are entering hospice, or read an obituary of a friend who died suddenly.
It seems like then, the deaths come back in waves again, and we are all powerless to stop them. All we can do is watch in horror, love fiercely, and hope it isn't us who is next.
Thinking of what death feels like
After a long winter filled with sickness, I had, for the first time in my metastatic experience, the thought of what it must feel like to die. To just surrender to it.
And when I thought about it, I didn't think of the sadness of it all as I had before. The parts where I have to say goodbye to my children; what would I say to them? Or the parts where I give away my most favorite things, like my Kitchenaid mixer or my rainbow rag rug. Even where I'd never go home again, or see the ocean, or walk in the forest. No more Christmases, Easters. Birthdays. I didn't think of any of that.
All I could think of was how freeing it would be. Dying. The acceptance of it. How nice it would be to never feel sick again in this lifetime. And that was the first time I truly understood what it meant when people say, "At least they aren't suffering anymore."
And so, when friends die, I feel it all. Anger. Sadness. Guilt. Rage. Disgust. Anxiety - will I be next? And, lastly; relief!
Because I know, despite it all, at least they aren't suffering anymore. We gather together, our metastatic community, and grieve. The anger and the sadness begin to drift away, but the love remains. When the next waves strike, we are ready. And, perhaps, even when it is our turn to surrender, we will be ready, too.
Have you lost a loved one to metastatic breast cancer? Please share with our ABC family, and let's honor them together.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to share that on Friday, October 29, 2021, Danielle Thurston passed away. We know that Danielle’s voice and perspective continue to reach so many. She will be deeply missed.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.