January 9th came and went and I never checked up. Didn’t even cross my mind that 4 years ago to the day our world was rocked with the news that breast cancer spread to my bones after nearly 7 years “cancer free.” I became a metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patient. A diagnosis with treatment options, but no cure. Life expectancy is 2-3 years. Terminal.
Jay and I traveled to a large, well respected cancer center to talk with “one of the best” doctors we could find to make a plan. Said “expert” doctor basically outlined my demise. As I understood it, I would be dead in 3 years. Devastated, we came home and I called one of my designer friends and asked her to be the Creative Director for my funeral.
My friend straight up refused the position. She and hundreds of others rallied around me to live. I found doctors who believed with me that I wasn’t a statistic. I decided instead of waiting to die, I would live. I would make my body as healthy as possible and hold on for science… The longer I live, the more time there is for breakthroughs and new treatments. I found people who lived with this disease for 5, 10, 15 years.
Four years later I didn’t even think to remember this devastating anniversary because I was busy LIVING a HEALTHY and HAPPY life. Take that “expert.”
This disease is awful. Brutal. Unpredictable. Devastating.
I am one of the lucky ones. Over the past four years friends have been diagnosed and passed away, while I sit here relatively healthy. The reality is 111 people die each day of MBC. It is the leading cancer killer in women under the age of 50. I am an Exceptional responder – not the norm.
Breast cancer is many cancers – influenced by genetics, hormones and other factors. I didn’t do anything in particular that made my trajectory different than those who died. Just damn lucky.
I share this post today because I wish I knew about people like me when I was first diagnosed. The simple fact that you can live well with this disease wasn’t presented to me as an option. I am a small percentage of patients. But, I am not alone. I am often hesitant to share my good health at the risk of sounding unsympathetic. But, I am reminded by friends who are facing devastating progression that each time we see someone doing well with MBC it brings us hope. My joy is their joy. Their pain is my pain.
So, January 9th, I am glad to have forgotten you.
Instead I am going to remember moments like the first ½ marathon I ran with MBC, the time I swam with sharks, climbed a mountain and chased my kids on a frozen pond… with MBC.
I know there will be another date that rocks our world. A day when I face progression or treatment changes. But, instead I am focused on meaningful experiences- learning something new, spending slowed-down quality time with people I love, helping Hope Scarves reach more people, moving my body, renovating an old farmhouse. And, celebrating!
Actually, I write this from the sky, flying to Las Vegas where we are celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. I’ve never been. This friend is worth it – sparkles, champs, dancing. Craziness. Living life to the fullest– celebrating aging as a blessing not a disappointment.
$25 on the 9.
*I forgot to publish this blog post – until now that we are back from our trip. Indeed 9 was a big winner for me on the craps table (I’ve never gambled before). Most of all – it was a chance to spend laughter filled time with people we love. Grateful for the chance. What’s next?