When I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer on August 10, 2010, I never questioned the diagnosis. I never asked, “Why me?” I would deal with the diagnosis and treatment and move forward.
Not this time.
In September 2013, my cancer metastasized to my bones, liver and dura (the outer covering of the brain). After more testing, a primary thyroid cancer was also discovered.
I went through a range of emotions. I was angry, I was mad. How could this happen to me when I took all the right precautions? My oncologist reassured me that I did all I could. It didn’t matter.
When my oncologist delivered my diagnosis, he brought up an image on a computer screen. It was the image of my body, all lit up. He looked sad. He said the cancer has spread. He was so sorry. My oncology nurse cried. I cried. My husband looked lost.
We then needed to tell our children. My daughter is 19, and a sophomore in college. My son is 15, and a sophomore in high school. It was not easy telling them last year, as they both adjusted to their freshman years. However, we have been sharing all news, good or bad, with our kids since the beginning of this journey.
Within a few weeks we all adjusted as well as we could to this devastating news. It was time to move forward, and begin treatment. I started chemotherapy right away. I felt weak and tired, but I did not lose my hair! I am now on hormonal therapy and a bone medicine.
I am feeling fine and handling my situation well… most days. I have my moments, especially when I think of my husband and kids.
It makes me sad to think I might not grow old with my husband, or be around to see my children’s graduations and marriages, or become a grandmother. But, I am a positive person who is always looking for the silver lining: my glass is half full.
You might think, “How can there be anything positive about having a disease like metastatic breast cancer?” I can tell you first hand, there is. I would like to share some of them with you:
- Family and friends share their thoughts and feelings more. We say things to each other that we might not have otherwise because no one wants to have any regrets. The words “I love you” are said quite often.
- Friendships have grown closer and I have been reconnecting with past friends. (Thank you, social media!)
- I may have to have treatments for the rest of my life, but at least for now, they do not seem as harsh as the ones I had with my initial diagnosis.
- People want to help as much as they can. I get asked all the time if my son needs a ride home from school, if I need anything at the grocery store, or a ride to a doctor’s appointment. It’s heartwarming to know people really do care, and want to help my family and I.
- And then, there are the compliments. Everyone tells me I look good, but I think sometimes it is said because people do not know what else to say in person.
- As long as I am feeling well, I get to plan and visit places I have never been to, and do things that I have always wanted to try. Some refer to this as a bucket list. Some people make this list and never get to do anything on it because they die before they can get to it. I have time and I plan to use it wisely. Let me talk about this a bit more…
I do not have a written “list,” but there are certain places that I would like to visit. I enjoy traveling to new places with my family; we most recently visited Hawaii. It was an exciting trip, and we made wonderful memories. We have more trips planned for the near future.
I also find positivity in getting to write my own obituary and plan my funeral. I know this might sound morbid to some. But I want my family and friends to know that I want a park-like atmosphere, standing room only, black clothing optional, and most importantly I want a celebration of my life.
People ask me all the time, “How do you remain so positive?” Well, I am alive and thankful for each day I have. Each day is special in its own way. Most importantly, I have family and friends who love and care about me.
I live, laugh, and love every day. I accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will.
Susan Rosen lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Susan writes about living with metastatic breast cancer in her blog, Let Us Be Mermaids.
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