Part 2: The realities of stage 4 breast cancer
I have a lot of support. I have a friend who was just finished with reconstructive when I found out, who has gone to appointments with me almost every time over this 2-year journey so far. She told me that things would have a lot of ups and downs. I have another friend who is very spiritually supportive and had just gotten clear scans from triple-negative breast cancer. My sister, that I just found on Ancestry.com due to DNA, came to my first treatment and made me a quilt.
Telling my family was the hardest
I had a hard time telling my loved ones. It felt like this was the hardest part. My parents were 77 at that point. We lost my sister in a car wreck when I was 14 and I almost died too. My dad had also just lost a step-daughter to Hepatitis C and alcoholism. I told them I was having a test. I could not tell them when I found out, so my brother told them.
The realities of stage 4 breast cancer
Most people don't understand stage four breast cancer. Everyone expected it to get better. They all had someone who had recovered and never had another person. They all had advice. Insert eye roll. I worked throughout my chemotherapy. I really did not have the intense side effects that I expected. The anti-nausea drugs, anti-diarrhea drugs, Claritin, etc did their job. I missed work. I had rough days. It wasn't easy, don't get me wrong, it just wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. My hair fell out in handfuls on the 14th day after I started treatment. It was really awful. Most of it just came out in my hand. I went and got a wig on my lunch break and went back to work. People thought I had just gotten a haircut. I couldn't bear to just throw it away. It couldn't be made into a wig. I went and got in my car and saw a bird had pooped on my window. It was March, spring, so I took the burnt up frazzled hair and threw it off the mountain for the birds and bunnies to make a nest with. It would not be a total loss.
Visualizing the cancer going away
I did a lot of visualizations of the medicine burning cancer up and it was leaving me. I also visualized that I was doing the chemo for the collective. I did it for everyone who had cancer, would have cancer, and myself. I told people all the time that the medicine was only allowed to kill and remove cancer. Nothing else was allowed.
My tests were coming back well. The spots on my liver, rib, breast and lymph nodes were all shrinking. That also meant they were all cancer. The rest were just old injuries/scar tissue. So, I knew I really was stage 4 even though I was still in denial on some levels.
One morning, something didn’t feel right
I finished the chemotherapy part in June 2018. I was getting ready to start the Herceptin and Perjata alone. In July, I woke up one morning extremely dizzy. I tried to get up and go to work, but I couldn't walk. My eyes would not stay focused correctly. I have had vertigo and this felt different. It was still bad for several days. My oncologist told me to go to my primary care doctor, and she would order an MRI just to be safe. Vertigo went away with vertigo medicine. I felt pretty good. I almost didn't go to the MRI. But I did. I felt like it was going to come back fine.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this story.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?