On April 16, 2016, I walked into Charlton Memorial hospital for a mammogram. Five days after my 35th birthday. I had a 5 year old who I had just taken for her kindergarten screening and a two year old running around in diapers. We had just listed our starter home and were preparing to move into our forever home. My life, that I had worked so hard for, was right where I had wanted it to be. I remember going to that mammogram appointment alone thinking that it would be no big deal. That they would tell me the lump in my arm pit was nothing. I even remember making plans to stop at the brand new Sonic in town after to see what the fuss was about. I never in my wildest dream thought that I would have the mammogram, be taken across the hall for an ultrasound and then be taken to a private room to be told that they suspect that I had breast cancer and that I needed to be referred to a breast cancer specialist. The next ten days were a blur and the life that I worked so hard on building was “destroyed” in a matter of minutes. As we all know, my breast cancer was a beast that spread through my body so quickly making me a Stage IV Cancer patient, a lifer.
Last week I was fortunate enough to turn 40. Something that in all honesty I was not sure that I would ever accomplish. Turning 40, five years ago was something that I only had a 22% chance of doing. The chances of me seeing 45 is only 17%. I am so incredibly thankful for the time I have gotten so far and it is not lost on me that it is a huge success to live 5 years with this disease. I also understand that I have made it this far and my situation can change and become dire very quickly. This disease is a beast. It ruins lives, families and futures. A great friend of mine sent me a Ted Talk recently to listen to. This episode hit home in so many ways (I will link below if interested in listening). One of the quotes that stuck out to me is ” We are all one breath away from a situation that can destroy our lives.” This disease has destroyed our lives in so many ways.
Living with a terminal disease makes you look at life a little differently. Over the past five years I have learned so much. I have learned that I cannot control everything. This was a tough one for the control freak in me but those close to me know that my new favorite saying is “It is what it is”. I didn’t do anything to get this cancer. God didn’t give it to me as a punishment. It happened and there is not too much I can do about it. I take the medicine, I endure the treatments and I LIVE the hell out of every single day and pray that I get to live to see another one.
I have learned that I have a strength within that I could never imagine. There is NOTHING easy about this disease and the treatments. I know that so far I have had it a little easier than others but trust me this is no walk in the park. On the days where I think I can’t take much more something or someone happens to give me that push to keep it moving (whether they realize it or not). It’s funny b/c some of the strongest, most appreciative and humble people I have ever met are the other cancer fighters I have been fortunate to know. They live or lived with such grace and a simple appreciativeness of what lays right before them. One day at a time. Relishing in the moments. Every single little moment.
I have learned to realize who is in your tribe and hold them close. We would not have been able to make it through the last five years without our “people”. There are so many of you. We have been blessed to be shown the TRUE meaning of family and friendship through this situation. I am so thankful that my kids are able to see and feel this. The kindness, generosity and love that we have been shown (and I hope that we show others) has been incredible and so amazingly appreciated. Sometimes it is hard for me to keep up with and express how genuinely thankful I am for so many.
I am so extremely thankful that I have been able to raise my kids for the past five years and create so many memories with them. I remember the first words that came out of my mouth when told my diagnosis. “What about my kids? I won’t be able to bring them to school?” I vaguely remember the Dr. telling me that I am not dying right away, I will be able to bring them to school. Such a silly thing for me to think of in my highly medicated state. I think of this often when I sit in the school drop off and pick up line daily. Something so simple to many, but so meaningful to me.
I am not sure how much time I have left fighting this disease. I do know that right now, the scans I had last week show that this medicine is keeping the cancer contained. I am thankful for this because this medicine has been pretty tolerable for me. I chuckle when I type this because my pretty tolerable side effects would bring some to their knees! I plug on living one doctors appointment, one scan, one chemo cycle to the next. Each time hoping and praying that I will get to live another five years and that one day I will be writing a blog post titled “Still Here….. Ten Years Later”.
Thank you so much for being on this journey with us for the last five years.