On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which is a one-of-a-kind experience designed for women living with advanced disease, caregivers and healthcare providers. In preparation for that event along with our video blog series, we’re introducing Pat Biedermann, LBBC Helpline volunteer who happens to be living with metastatic breast cancer. In this multi-series, Pat will share with you–not only her story–but her “tricks and tips” on how to live (and live well) with the disease.
I know many people see cancer as an opponent that they must fight, must defeat. I have come to realize that I must co-exist with my disease because I have been told by enough medical professionals that I will probably be on some form of chemo for the rest of my life. Stage IV cancer is rarely, if ever, cured. However, with medical advances, sound living practices, and some help from a higher source, I choose to view my cancer not as a fatal disease, but as a chronic condition that I can live with: I have maintained this philosophy for six and a half years and – so far, so good!
Before receiving my breast cancer diagnosis, I was forty-five, married for the second time, had a daughter (age twenty-two), and a full career. Overall, I was in great physical shape. I took a spin class five times a week and walked miles each day. Had anyone asked me at the time, I would have said that I was a healthy eater. I did not overdo red meat or sweets, and I was a moderate social drinker who never smoked. I thought my life was in balance: a young woman in the prime of life.
To say I was shocked when a routine mammogram showed an abnormality would be a gross understatement. I distinctly remember sitting in the waiting room with many other women, as one by one they were told they could get dressed and leave. Finally, a technician asked me to follow her, because she wanted to take more views. Then, I was sent back to the waiting room, where I watched more women come and go. There are no adequate words to describe how alone and frightened I felt at that moment. I know other women have suffered through this experience, and countless more will in the future. When the technician finally returned, I was taken to see the radiologist who said I should see a breast surgeon ASAP.
As with most people diagnosed with a serious illness, I have lived in two completely different realities: one before my first diagnosis and one after. In many ways, I am a completely different person. My goals, priorities, personal habits and relationships have all changed as a result of cancer.
At this writing, although I am still officially stage IV, I can honestly say that, in many ways, I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. I know that I am certainly more in touch and more in control of my physical well-being than ever before. Ironically, cancer aside, I am in better shape than most of my cancer-free friends! This state of well-being is one I have worked very hard to achieve. I have spent weeks, months, years researching, trying, evaluating many different things – all with one aim in sight: to live as harmoniously and fully as I could with my stage IV cancer.
Over the years, many people have told me that I should share the information I have gathered. Yet, when I decided to begin writing, my first thought was that there were some people who might wonder ‘why now?’ After all, June 2012 will mark 10 years since I first heard those dreaded words: “You have breast cancer.” So, why now? Is the end near? Is that why now is the right time: absolutely not. At this writing, I feel good and hopeful and I am grateful for all that I have learned; all the ways I have grown; all the amazing people I have met along this long journey.
The thought came to me that I needed to talk about all that I had done in hopes that someone will read this, find something of value, and improve the quality of his/her life. I want to pay forward the kindness and inspiration I have experienced since my diagnosis.
Come back next Wednesday for a new installment where Pat offers her “Justification of her Positive Attitude.”
Pat enjoy walks out in nature, reading and spending time with family and friends. Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series. Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with metastatic cancer.