If you are also a blogger and would like to join this challenge then head on over to Nancy's Point to find out how to participate.
And, here we go...
1. Share anything you want about your cancer diagnosis (or your loved one’s). Share your age, cancer type, stage, when you were diagnosed, family history (if any), your reaction, how you learned the news, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing.
I was diagnosed stage IV DeNovo in June 2015 at the age of 46. DeNovo means that I never had early stage breast cancer. I have a type of breast cancer called Infiltrative Lobular Carcinoma which is almost never able to be seen by Mammogram because it grows in strings and mimics dense breast tissue. The only silver lining that I had with my stage IV diagnosis is that I am ER/PR+ with mets to bone only. There are many new medications available for hormone positive breast cancer. Knowing that I have many treatments available definitely gives me hope. However, knowing that ILC is not as common gives me stress! There is not as much research devoted to ILC as IDC.
Hearing those words "there is no cure" is probably the most difficult and terrifying thing I have ever experienced. In the beginning all I could think about was death and had the attitude that my life was over. It's now been a little over 2 years since my diagnosis and I am amazed at how well I have accepted this diagnosis and have found ways to live fully despite the daily struggles with side effects. If you look at the stages of grief, I experienced every single stage. If someone had told me in the beginning that one day I would feel happiness and joy again I would have scoffed at the idea. My life is hard, very hard... but with every loss I have tried to fill those gaps with new ways to live my life to the fullest. I manage to find joy in the little things and appreciate every moment.
2. What is the most outrageous thing someone has said to you about your (or your loved one’s) cancer?
Well, this is a hard one to answer. People have no idea what to say to a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. There is always this awkward pause when someone finds out and they fill the need to fill that silence with something/anything that shows how they feel. I think the most shocking thing said to me was, "I'll miss you when you're gone." I know the person who said it had very good intentions, but it was just the wrong thing to say. I think sometimes just a hug would do. Sometimes saying nothing is the best thing if you don't know how to put your emotions into words.
For me, the most outrageous thing is not what people say but the people who suddenly disappear from your life without a word. For me that hurts much more than the awkward platitudes and fumbled words. At least those people are trying and for that I am grateful. Not everyone is equipped to handle this diagnosis. I'm still trying to learn how to make my peace with the why.
3. What is your biggest cancer pet peeve? I know it’s hard to choose, as there are many to pick from, right? But what irks you the most?
All of those things that people say that are meant to be hopeful but only drive the dagger deeper into your heart! Such as...
"You can beat this!" ~ Just don't... don't... don't say this to a stage IV patient. It puts pressure on us to try to beat something we can't beat.
There is so much pressure for those who are diagnosed with breast cancer to jump aboard the pink warrior train and be a survivor. But I know that unless I die of something else, I will not survive breast cancer. This is a fact. No amount of pink washing, fighting, praying etc... is going to change this. It's exhausting trying to live up to the Cancer Warrior image that people expect. Sometimes we need to put down the pom poms and just rest from it all.
4. What is something you want others to know specifically about breast cancer?
Mammograms are not always effective in diagnosing breast cancer so doing those self check exams are so, so important. I discovered that the left side of my breast felt firm and went immediately in for an exam. It was discovered that I had stage IV breast cancer that had gone undetected by mammogram for several years. Know your body and do not hesitate to go in for a check-up if something doesn't feel right. Don't rely only on mammograms. I had no idea that stage IV existed until I was diagnosed. I also think every woman needs to know the risks of breast cancer returning so they can be prepared. Knowledge is power and sugar coating the truth or refusing to acknowledge that it can happen puts women at risk.
5. If applicable, do you worry about recurrence rarely, from time to time or a lot? What is your biggest worry today, right now, this minute?
I don't worry about recurrence obviously but I do worry about progression of my disease. My worries are never with myself but instead with my husband and children and how they will cope after I'm gone.
6. Do you feel cancer has made you a better person? Yes, I know this a loaded question. If you do, specifically in what way?
"How has cancer changed you as a person?" I hear this all of the time. It has changed how I live my life without a doubt. I have many limitations physically now, so I've been forced to make changes in order to cope. I do see the world through a different set of lenses. I recognize more clearly the things that don't matter. I let things go so much easier than I ever did before. I don't think cancer has made me a better person, just a more realistic one. If I said that I was never bitter, angry or jealous I would be a liar for sure. In the back of my mind is always the question... "Why??"...
7. What is your favorite cancer book? (No, I’m not fishing for mentions of mine!)
I actually haven't read any. :) But I recently bought a book called The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying and hope to get to it soon.
8. Besides your family, where do you turn for emotional support?
I have some of the best friends a lady could ask for who are all my rocks. I'm also in some very good on-line support groups and spend a lot of time with the ladies in these groups. I have my own support group for women aged 40 and above that also have MBC. Moderating this group is my way of giving back. When I was first diagnosed I had so much support. I was able to bounce back onto my feet again pretty quickly as a result. Not everyone has this kind of support so I try to make it available to others wherever I can. Our group is called: The Golden Oldies Cute right?? ;)
9. How many cancer blogs do you read and why do you read them?
When I was first diagnosed and I was plundering around the internet doing research, I came across a woman's MBC blog but she unfortunately had passed away six months prior. I spent many hours reading through her posts and found her words to be very comforting and inspiring. I was a book review blogger at the time and finding her blog inspired me to start a blog about my own walk with Metastatic Breast Cancer. I have found blogging to be very therapeutic and hope that it will help educate others about this disease. Aside from following Nancy's Point on Facebook, I just haven't had the time to explore other blogs. But, I would love to have an opportunity to mingle with other breast cancer bloggers.
10. Do you call yourself an advocate? If so, what drives you?
I am definitely an advocate. I volunteer as an Ambassador for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. I attend symposiums and try to learn as much as I can to bring back to the women in the support groups I follow and moderate. Making sure that women have access to accurate knowledge and quality support is very important to me.