Friday, November 29, 2013


A few posts ago, I wrote about concentrating on the idea of if the cancer comes back, not when. All I got to say is when is now.

I received the official word the night before Thanksgiving that my most recent PET scan showed a slight enhancement on my liver and that there was a new spot on my rib.  My oncologist calls it an early progression, and is starting me on the chemo Kadcyla next Friday. Kadcyla is a combination of chemo and Herceptin, and delivers the chemo directly to the cancer cells. It is supposed to be much more gentle. I get to keep my hair.

Frankly, keeping my hair is no consolation. I'd rather keep my life. But here we go again. I was hoping and praying the Herceptin and my body would keep the cancer at bay for years. My oncologist tells me I exceeded her expectations for how long I would stay stable. Seriously? She expected me to start dying sooner? What the. . .? That thought ain't no consolation either.

Happy Thanksgiving to me.

Honestly? I've been crying consistently since hearing the news. Today I lost it, pulled over after getting lost, throwing any free item I could reach around the inside of my car in a fit of rage. I am angry. I am sad. I am scared. And I am angry.

This is not fair. I know people who are total assholes who have had metastatic cancer and now seem to be cancer free. And this idea of "just keep fighting?" Screw that. I am sick of fighting. I just want to live my life. I am tired of living with the Damocles sword of death, resulting in the re scheduling of anything in my life that might mean anything to me. As a trucker might say,  fuck this shit.

Tattoos not advisable while on chemo? I'm getting one any way.  Vacations a risky idea? I'm going. Big purchases not recommended. I'm buying.  Life can do what it wants with me, but I'm gonna live.

All I have to say is when, when, when. Fuck that shit. I'm going to live now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cancer Should Never Be a Usual Experience

The other day I found myself using the word "usually" in the same sentence as "cancer".  I was asking a friend if she would meet me for lunch after my every 6-month scheduled CT and bone scans, and, was telling her that usually the technician injects me with the radioactive substance, has me drink the barium, and then sends me off for the CT.  I said those words without thinking. But after a few minutes, it hit me.  I have a "usually" when it comes to cancer?  How could anything ever be usual about cancer?  Am I nuts?  Two years ago, there was nothing usual in my mind about cancer except that the people I knew who got cancer, usually died of cancer.

So when I was diagnosed with cancer, especially Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, I immediately thought I was going to follow the usual pattern and die.  I didn't. Instead, I lived. And almost two years later, I was telling a friend about my cancer "usual." After this long, I have a pattern, a routine.  I am still surprised to hear myself be so blasé, so usual about cancer.

But let's be honest. What I have is luck. For too many people with cancer, their usual is short-lived and painful. As I heard an oncologist say shortly after I was diagnosed, how someone fares with cancer is entirely dependent upon the biology of the tumor and the biology of the person who has that tumor. Cancer is like a virus. It learns the treatments, learns the body's biology, and it outsmarts the system. I have lucky biology.  I have a relatively easy usual.  And I am grateful.

But I am not naive. I know this lucky ride can end at any time.  The cancer could easily learn my biology, and take my life away bit by tiny bit. I've learned to live with the fear.  When fear drifts through my mind, I've learned to push it away, and think, "Well, best get on with what I'm doing, because who knows if I'll be able to do this much longer."  It might sound weird, but thinking this way makes it easier for me. And in an odd way, thinking this way makes me grateful.  I'm grateful that right now I can drive, walk, attend a party, see a play. I'm not trying to be melodramatic. It is the truth.  I've seen too many people unable to do even the simplest of things as they suffer through unending cancer treatment and progression.

So Lisa and I will be eating lunch this Friday at my usual post-scan restaurant, as I wait for my usual once a month Herceptin infusion, after which I'll head home for my usual post-scan nap.   And I will be grateful for my friend's company and care, and for the tasty post-scan meal. Luck is my cancer usual, and I'm going to keep on knocking on wood that the luck ride continues.  I live in the world of cancer, and it's an unbelievably unusual world in which to live.