Let's face it, getting diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer sucks! It is most likely the most life-altering news you will ever have to deal with in your life.
Impact beyond treatment
Not only is it a lot of doctor's appointments and surgeries. It's saying no to hanging out with friends because you either can't wake up or you are afraid of shitting your pants in front of them. It's seeing your athletic body go from slaying mountains to needing help getting out of bed over a small fraction of time. It's "getting" to deciding which body parts you want to hand over to the cancer gods in an offering to save your life: first your breasts, then your ovaries, then your hair. Lastly, it's estrogen blockers that make your vagina dryer than in Death Valley and turns the baby hair on your chin into a babby goatee.
As if losing everything about you that made you a woman wasn't bad enough, you are also learning that you had no idea what pain was until you experienced lytic tumors eating away at your bones. Then the nerve pain kicked in, and suddenly the person who couldn't handle bone pain seemed like such a weakling in comparison.
More to do
Even after all of those blows, the candle of life keeps burning inside you. You keep pressing on. Why? Not to be too cliché here, but life is too precious to give it up, even though yours is now a 180-degree difference from your old life and nothing like what you would have ever imagined for yourself. But, it is what you have been blessed with, and it is still worth clinging to tooth-and-nail. Why is that? Why are you willing to deal with this purgatory to arrive at the same inevitable ending?
Because you are not finished, you have things left to do. Wrongs left to right, stories yet to tell. Some of you have children to raise. Others have family members to care for or old grievances to settle with friends. How rich and meaningful can you make the final years of your lives if you dedicate them to ensuring that the memories left were good?
The gift of time
You cant turn on the TV without seeing the death tolls from Covid-19. So many people are passing so suddenly and alone that they barely get to say goodbye to their loved ones, much less do they have time to make peace with their lives. Regrettably, they were not given the time we are, so we need to use this gift wisely, if not for us, for them.
Banksy repopularized an old saying when he said, "You die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on when somebody says your name for the last time."1. Right now is the time to ponder statements like this. Who is going to be saying our name when we are gone? Will it be positive? I know I have a lot of work to do on this issue. I am thankful for every day in my life I have left to untangle some of the messes I have made. Although, I don't always express it that way.
Some of you may say, "I have no purpose. I am alone in this battle. So why should I fight it?" Because you are not alone, you have this community here, and many more are out there if you start looking. They are all around you. At your hospital, on the internet, at school, at your local community center. But, whatever you do, don't give up on yourself.
As MBC patients, we have been given a unique viewpoint on life. We can either choose to sit and stew in our last years or continue to grow. Whichever path you choose, no one will judge you for your decision because cancer sucks. But know, it is a conscious decision you are making, and maybe bringing positivity to your world can make a difference in someone else's.
Internal radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation used to treat breast cancer.