To Plan Or Not To Plan?: Looking Ahead With MBC
Planning for the future, whether you see yourself in that future or not, is never an easy task. Whether it be logistically speaking, the emotional involvement, or both, it is an endeavor most living with metastatic disease dread for one reason or another. What will happen to your children? Home? Belongings? YOU? These are all hard questions we have to face.
There are two very distinct schools of thought about looking ahead while living with metastatic breast cancer
"I must plan ahead" and "No planning for me"? Another question is, do you make significant life changes while living with an incurable disease, or keep things as they are? When I announced I was relocating across the country, an MBC peer remarked, "You are so brave! I could never do that with MBC. Aren't you scared to make a big life change like that?".
Are you happy? If not, what would make you happy? As previously mentioned, I made a cross-country move one year after my stage IV diagnosis. I had been unhappy where I lived for a long time and had been plotting a move before I ever even had cancer. Why stay somewhere I didn't want to be another moment longer? While some people use their diagnosis as a means to stay rooted, which makes sense, I used mine as a propeller to get me out of there. I no longer had the illusion of time, of waiting for "one day" to do it. Other metastatic patients have said they had always wanted to go back to school, change careers. Some build their dream home, take a once-in-a-lifetime trip, even create a family (not just biologically, but through fostering, adoption, and new fur babies). We all took a long, hard look at our lives and determined what would make us happy, and then planned accordingly to make that happen, at least as closely as possible to our vision.
What is your current situation?
Are you married? Single? Have children? A career? Planning ahead will depend upon a lot of factors. I knew when I was married if I died tomorrow not much would change. My children would stay in the same house, the same bedrooms, the same schools. My belongings could stay there indefinitely; there was no rush to move anything. My type of career, teaching, meant that an emergency long-term sub could be found within days to replace me.
Now that I am single and the primary custodial parent, things look differently. If I died tomorrow, am I prepared? My children would have to go immediately to live with their dad and his girlfriend nearly an hour away. I could leave money to pay the rent for another month or two, but after that, where would all of our things go? Is it fair to leave my basement a mess for my friends to sort through? My favorite belongings not being given to the people who would love them the most? Who would access my bank accounts? My planning is far more significant now as a single person.
Having a will
Is there a legal document that shows your final wishes? This is something we should all have, especially metastatic patients. I want to know that after I am gone, my children will be taken care of, whatever money I have left doesn't fall into the wrong hands, and my belongings go where they need to go. If you own assets, such as property, this is of particular importance.
If left to my mother, I would have a Catholic wake, be on display for all to see, and buried in my family plot on Long Island. Not a terrible way to go, but not the way I want to go. For us single folk, who will make the arrangements for us once we die, and do they even know what we want? I have decided that I want to be cremated. If you relocated away from home, another question is, will your final resting place be where you were raised, or where you chose to live as an adult? The beautiful thing about cremation is that you can finally be in two places at once, or more! I have planned to have a memorial service outdoors in my adult home, Colorado, where a part of myself will be sprinkled into the mountains. Simultaneously, I want another held on Long Island, my childhood home, where a part of myself will be sprinkled into the ocean. In addition, I have requested attendees to wear my favorite colors and friends to play live music. Finally, I have requested a small part of myself made into pendants for each of my children to be given to them after my service. Rather than solely leave this in writing to be interpreted, I called friends and family and explained this to them in detail.
Which school of thought do you find yourself in - share your story with us below.
We all have to look at our lives and determine where we are, what we want, and what needs to happen to make that a reality. That is something that we can all appreciate, whether we are metastatic or not.
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.
Internal radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation used to treat breast cancer.