Living with cancer is a reality that is indescribable in many ways. I've made a very emotionally demanding decision to continue living with as much gusto, happiness, and positivity as I can possibly muster. There are plenty of ways that I embody the living with cancer part. It's no phony act.
It's been a while so lets catch up.
When the cancer first came back and had metastasized to my liver and chest a mere 10 months after completing chemotherapy, in 2013, I was told there was no chance for a cure. I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer. The next step was to try to get it under control with another regiment of chemotherapy. I was devastated. My family was shocked. We didn't want to imagine the possibility of me dying so soon. I had certainly believed that my journey with cancer was behind me. I embraced the hope that the radical surgery and brutal chemotherapy would culminate in cure and I would go on to live the rest of my life creating memories including the cancer journey. I had already decided that the whole cancer nightmare would be just that: a ghastly yet memorable experience of my past.
Obviously I was mistaken.
I went through chemotherapy again. I joined an experimental group - a clinical drug trial, which ripped me off big time! The cancer came back for a third time. In December, 2015 my right 3rd rib just snapped. While trying to recover, a bout of vomitting refractured my rib in February, 2016. It's been a tough year for me. I found out that despite maintaining my level of fitness, I have brittle bones that can spontaneously fracture. Life goes on. My 14 year old and 13 year old daughters need a mom to confide in. My 10 year old son and my 8 and 6 year old daughters wonder why Mom doesn't play, roughhouse, and pick them up anymore. My husband picks up all the slack by keeping a fulltime job while also filling my old shoes including grocery shopping and doing many of the Mom Things I used to do without a second thought.
By the spring of this year, cancer was everywhere AGAIN - 3rd time: in my liver, throughout my chest. My abdomen filled with ascites requiring the drainage of 15 pounds of malignant fluid via a needle jabbed through my tummy. There was no time to wait. It was skedaddle back to chemotherapy or die.
In May, 2016, I took my first dose of my third series of chemotherapy and was knocked back with all of the lousy side effects. I promised myself that I would stay strong. No matter how miserable and debilitated I felt I would continue to exercise. I went out for my first run and that night I suffered excrutiating pain the entire night. The next morning my oncologist sent me to the emergency room. The professor of ultrasound determined that an existing inscisional hernia was stragulating my intestines. Ultimately it was actually the cancer that had burst through the hernia in my belly in 4 places, leading to emergency abdominal surgery. I had a few weeks to recover and then back to chemotherapy.
Who knows if the treatment will work? My oncologist encourages me with sincere eagerness. Of course I'm hopeful for a third remission; a miracle - how hard I hope and pray every second of my conscious hours. Nightly slumber is my sweet escape but my beloved husband no longer sleeps.
If you see me out and about I look the same. No one can see the cancer in my body or even in my eyes. I smile. I laugh. I post selfies on social media; at the beach, amidst the yellow sunflowers, out with family or friends. I look happy.
My cancer journey has made me thankful in many ways. Let's start with the fact that I've beat odds more than once. It's been 4 years and while the cancer continues to chase me - I'm alive! I'm mobile. I'm not exactly a suffering, withering pile clinging to life. I'm living with stage 4 metastatic and very persistent recurrent cancer. I'm not the same wife or mother that I once was. My kids have become more independent than I would've wished for them. My family is dependent on the kindness of family and friends more frequently than I ever could have dreamt of.
I'm loved and embraced.
I'm happy nevertheless I'm anxious and restless.
I live however my life is on pause. How could it not be? That snapped rib was a constant disability for months. I'm in the throws of chemotherapy at the mercy of side effects. An emergency surgery was another life-stopper. I wait for blood test results. My cancer markers jumped way up. I hold my breath hoping the markers go down and when they do they're still way above normal and I hold my breath.
Today I had another PET CT scan - I can't remember how many I've had but I've been pumped with radioactive fluids and chugged countless pitchers of iodine fusions. The worst part of everything is not knowing. You wait for answers that are supposed to come today but "call back tomorrow because the results aren't in the computer yet.....".
Life does go on and my life is on pause - forever.
I feel blessed every day that I wake up - alive! I'm thankful for each and every time any one of my children walks through the front door healthy and complete. I'm grateful for the sounds of my life partner breathing beside me even if he stays awake most of the night tossing and turning.
This is not a life I would wish on anyone. This is my life; my reality.
I am happy, I am thankful, I am blessed, AND my life is forever on pause.