A woman looks resolute

Terminal

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I knew that I was going to be fine - sterile but fine. When I was diagnosed with mouth cancer, I knew that I would be fine - toothless but fine. However, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my certainty lessened.

A different cancer diagnosis

It lessened not because I lacked faith, but only because I knew that this time was different. When the cancer specialist looked into my eyes and said, "You have triple-negative, stage 3D, and we don't have a cure. Even if it does go into remission, it more than likely will come back and come back with a vengeance. Mine did, and I know I won't survive it." I took a deep breath, looked her in her eyes, embraced her and whispered, "I know you won't but I'm glad that you're here right now." She took a deep breath, sighed, held me a little tighter and wept for a brief moment. Then she pulled herself together and offered me some M&Ms.

Triple-negative breast cancer thriver

As we said our goodbyes I knew that would be the last time that I would see or speak to her, and it was. She passed away two weeks later. That brief encounter gave me a glimpse of what was to come as a triple-negative breast cancer thriver.

Triple negative breast cancer

The moment that I was told that the triple-negative breast cancer had become metastatic, my heart sank. I wasn’t really clear what stage IV was, all I knew was that I felt impending doom. I felt as if my whole world had been turned upside down and that the internal earthquake that I was experiencing was definitely nothing short of an 8 point 0, destroying everything around me and leaving nothing but a cracked infrastructure. 

The doctor delivered that life-changing news in with the most personal and compassionate way ever. She rubbed my hand, tears in her eyes, a shaken voice equivalent to her unsteady hand, and she said, “Honey, your MRI, PT scan, and blood test all show that the cancer has metastasized.”

Metastatic breast cancer diagnosis experience

As she began to tell me where all of the new spots were and how she wanted to move forward, I unknowingly and unflinchingly began to stonewall her. Her mouth was moving, my ears were open, but I couldn’t hear a thing. As she spoke, I stood up, I thanked her for letting me know and proceeded out of the door. She stopped me dead in my tracks, told me to sit down, take a breath and figure out what my next move would be.

Medical history

I knew all too well what my next move would be. I would act as if this were nothing more than unwelcome, unwanted, underserving medical betrayal. After all, I was born with a medical deficit. I weighed a mere one and a half pounds and had medical problems large enough to make any eager medical student lose their craft for a profession they once loved. So this doctor’s visit felt no different; well, it did in a way, because this time I felt as if the story wouldn’t end well.

Coping with a new terminal diagnosis

I left that doctor's office, and I disappeared for six months. I ignored calls, referral letters - any and everything that would remind me that I had a terminal illness. Was I in denial like the doctor had suggested? No, I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to endure this medical overload.

Returning to the hospital

My return to the hospital was not by choice, I couldn’t breathe, I had no choice but to return to the place I dreaded the most. That place never had a wonderful, inspiring word for me, only endless words of all things gone wrong. This visit was no different. You have double pneumonia and sarcoidosis echoed in my now deaf ears. 

Living with late-stage breast cancer

One bad report after another has left me emotionally paralyzed. I can no longer feel the fight or inner healing when it comes to endless medical diagnoses. All I know is once you're told that your situation is terminal there isn't much that you can do with that information. So, I try to live in the moment, be as happy as I can, love often, forgive frequently, write and watch mindless TV. My situation may be terminal but that doesn't mean that I have to live terminally.

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