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A Love Letter to the Thrivers

I am a survivor of stage 3 breast cancer. I will celebrate 11 years post-diagnosis this coming June. I remember waking up from the first surgery (there were many) with my husband and best friend in the recovery room, and both were in tears.

I knew things weren't what we expected upon waking. The cancer had spread into my lymph nodes, and they removed 18 of them. I was 39 years old at the time, just a month before my 40th birthday. It seems like yesterday and also like forever ago.

Searching for stage 3 breast cancer support

Upon my diagnosis, I searched the internet for other people who had been through a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis and made it to the other side. I had a hard time finding many of us, but I found many stage 1-2 groups and stage 4 groups. Support groups for people living with stage 3 seemed more rare. So I found myself much like a nomad moving from group to group and not fitting in anywhere.

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Becoming a patient advocate

I began to attend educational conferences and learn about ways to advocate for better policies related to breast cancer and access to quality care for everyone. I became empowered to sit on peer review panels and give my opinion on research proposals related to breast cancer from the patient's perspective.

Starting a non-profit organization

I have started a non-profit organization called Twisted Pink, dedicated to providing hope and connection to people living with metastatic breast cancer. I have been blessed to meet so many amazing people that I would never have known had I not been diagnosed with breast cancer. I have also experienced a significant loss of people who became friends and have since left this world for the next because of breast cancer. Loss is hard, but not knowing them would have caused a tremendous void in my life.

Dealing with survivor's guilt

I continue to take Arimidex past the standard 10-year mark because my oncologist believes it is best that I continue the medication since I do not have significant side effects like bone loss or joint pain. I have looked for ways to keep living without the survivor's guilt that I often feel from time to time.

I often sit and listen to my thriver friends, many of whom would rather not talk about cancer, but hear about everyday stresses instead. I suppose I can relate to this on some level because I am a mom to a young adult who has severe cognitive delays and Epilepsy. Sometimes, just being normal is what I crave.

A message to those with metastatic breast cancer

So, as I reflect on Valentine's Day, I wish to express my love for all the thrivers who continue to live and live well. You are seen and loved by a community who want to support you. We may not understand everything you go through daily, but we understand your fear, hope, and the "yo-yo" of life. We know that sometimes there won't be answers to the whys, and sometimes there will be answers you don't want to hear but have to face. 

If I could wish for anything in this world, it would be that we all get to the point of remission and can live with just being on medication to keep the cancer away. Until then, we will continue to show our love and support by walking, running, bowling, biking, dancing, and doing whatever we can to raise funds for more research. We see you, and we will not leave you behind.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AdvancedBreastCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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