Living with Stage 4 cancer
“We” live among you. “We” work a full time job, shop for groceries, and pay our bills. “We“ take care of our families, do the dishes…, take out the trash.. “We” are living with Stage 4 cancer.
My cancer journey began in February of 2011 with a diagnosis of stage 3B inflammatory breast cancer. This is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that strikes with little warning. It is not hereditary or has nothing to do with lifestyle choices. I underwent 6 chemo treatments, a radical mastectomy and 33 radiation treatments . Remission followed for about a year and in December 2012 the cancer reappeared in several lymph nodes. Suddenly, I am now stage 4 (because the cancer returned) and went thru 6 chemotherapy treatments again. The cancer was caught early and has not spread any further. But I am now having to get an infusion of drugs every 3 weeks that the doctors hope will keep the cancer cells from reproducing. I will be getting these drugs for the rest of my life.
Just because I am stage 4 does not mean life stops and I wait to die! But realistically, things do change. I do not have the same future to look forward to as the rest of my peers. I know my chances of retirement are slim. I can’t do the physical things I used to do, such as umpiring. Other activities are limited due to tiring easily. I deal with side effects from the drugs and the previous 2 rounds of chemo. My world is tied to these drugs and the hope that they continue to work. I am 53 years old and have no plans other than to live each day.
People with stage 4 cancer have a unique outlook on life. We can either wallow in pity that this disease happened to us or we can fight with all our might to beat the odds and survive. I know that I have been lucky that I have done so well. I receive lots of encouragement from family, friends and medical personnel. Many others have not fared as well. My employer has worked with my treatment schedule, for which I am grateful. The monetary cost of cancer is staggering. Even with insurance, the costs can drain a family.
Keep my story in mind next time you see an obvious cancer patient and remember that not everyone with cancer looks sick. We carry this burden silently while working, shopping, and doing all those everyday chores.