Making Sense Of My Longterm Survival
Last updated: June 2023
I recently saw a few friends coming up on impressive survival anniversaries living with MBC. Seeing their beautiful faces in photos and reading their posts was a welcome treat in contrast to seeing devastating posts about friends who have died. Sadly, those are the ones I see more often. Those are the posts I dread the most.
I don’t begrudge anyone living with metastatic breast cancer who celebrates or wants to celebrate milestones along the way. Living with this illness is, to put it mildly - hard. The treatments can be brutal. The scans are physiologically traumatizing, and our procedures require us to endure so much pain.
Why am I still here?
While there are periods of stability, our lives are a neverending loop of getting ahead of cancer. When I see photos of others celebrating on social media for surviving several years, it makes me happy. So why is it so difficult to acknowledge my same milestones with happiness and enthusiasm?
Over the years I have lived with MBC, I have watched countless men and women over social media die. So many had children, and others with children too young to even comprehend what was happening to their parents. It’s absolutely gutting. My mind has difficulty reconciling that with my longevity having MBC.
Many of us were on the same drugs that eventually failed them but are (so far) keeping me stable. A few had a similar mutation that I do. Unfortunately, there is no feasible explanation (yet) that lends itself to answering my question: Why did they have to die, and why am I still here?
Several sources report statistics about people living with MBC. For example, one says 13 percent of people with de novo MBC before 50 have a 10-year survival rate. Another one suggested that people with metastasis limited to bones had a 75 survival rate at 10 years.1,2
While that data is helpful and meaningful, I still can’t understand why I am here after almost 10 years and others with very similar circumstances are not.
Rationally, I know everyone is different, even with similar pathology or metastasis sites. Body chemistries are different. Response rates aren’t the same. Those are facts. I am not ignoring them.
However, I am a very logical thinker, making it almost impossible to accept my good luck and stop obsessing about the 'whys' and 'why nots.'
For years, I advocated and demanded that those who have died from MBC are not forgotten. After all, some paved the way for new treatments by participating in clinical trials. But, unfortunately, even thinking about celebrating my decade-long dance with MBC seems disrespectful to the memory of those not here with me.
Is there a way I can do both? Is there a way I can honor their memory while also feeling good about the fact I am still here after 10 years? Because I really want to find a way to do both.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.