Having a cold… and stage IV breast cancer

I have been really sick for the past week.   It’s “just a nasty virus” like so many others are dealing with right now.  Not cancer!!!  I repeat, Not cancer.  But, as I fell into the sick stupor of this cold I also fell into a pretty dark hole of sadness.  As I reflect on the past week I am a little overwhelmed with how closely my emotions and physical well being are intertwined.  And I wanted to share that on this journey it isn’t just the scans and treatments that overwhelm us… it is our emotions as well.

Let’s start at the beginning…. I spent March 5-9th in Houston at the Young Survival Coalition Conference for Young Women affected by Breast Cancer.  It was an amazing experience. The Hope Scarves’ table was buzzing in the expo all weekend.  We collected 127 stories of encouragement from young women – dramatically enhancing our story collection.   Each time I shared our mission with an attendee it bolstered my commitment to our organization and our mission.  Women were so excited to get involved and loved the work we were doing.  I have an entire blog post to tell you more about this meaningful experience (stay tuned!)  After talking non-stop for 3 days with heightened emotions my body was exhausted as I flew home to Louisville.   As the wheels touched down my aching body slowly unwound and I felt the fatigue take over.

I woke up Tuesday morning with an awful cold and could barely lift my throbbing head off the pillow.   I spent the rainy day in my cozy bed reflecting on the conference, reading and sleeping.  As I lay there and got more and more sick my thoughts spiraled to sadness and fear of a time when I will be this sick from cancer.  Tethering through time I was transformed back to this time last year when my depression, fear and anxiety paralyzed me from every day activity.  Then, in the same thought I spun to the future and I could see myself lying in bed overcome with weakness from chemo treatment.   As I lay helplessly in bed coughing and feverish my mind and heart filled more and more with the fear and anxiety of being sick.     I knew this was just a stupid cold, but lying there coughing and weak unable to help my kids with homework, listening to Jay take charge and be Mr. Mom, my mind raced to the fears of when this will be my reality.  When I won’t be the person I want to be because of… cancer…   When I won’t be here at all.

I’m sure it seems strange to someone looking at this reality from a healthy perspective.  How silly to generalize something so extreme. I should be happy and thankful for a cold – for normal, everyday illness.  And, I kept telling myself that too.  But, it didn’t stop me from being overwhelmed.  It didn’t stop the anxiety from taking over. So, as I quarantined myself in my house for the past week- keeping my distance from kids and friends.  I fell deeper into the fears and sadness that I can usually avoid.

It sounds so cliche’, but this experience really is a roller coaster.  Some days I feel so “normal” I even forget I have stage IV cancer.  Other days (like last week) I lay in bed for days paralyzed by fear.   With each dip and turn of the “ride” I hold on as tight as I can to the life I love.

I am feeling a little better now – as far as the virus- and as a result my mental stability is coming back as well.   I just thought I would share how with this disease even normal, every day events like a cold are bigger and more deeply felt for me and others facing stage IV cancer.  The fears are right below the surface.   I surprised myself how quickly I slipped back into depression and fear.  I worked so hard to build up resolve to “live well with stage Iv cancer.”  It scared me to think how I will react when I actually have to deal with progression and more cancer.   How fragile I am, even though I am so happy.

I have my monthly injection on Friday and a PET scan coming up in the next couple weeks. I’m washing my hands and drinking lots of water as I fight off this virus and climb out of the sadness of last week.  I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed and that I didn’t live in fear.  I wish I had a better handle on all of this… but I don’t and that’s ok.  This is who I am and how I live.  Day to day. scan to scan. fear to fear. joy to joy.

to good health!

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