How Much Do You Know About MBC?

How Much Do You Know About MBC?

Friday, January 6, 2017

I Don't Like Being Squeezed!

This blog was originally written on 8/13/13- after my diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer.

As I begin this journey into the unknown of cancer treatment, I'm finding things I don't like. I don't like feeling so tired and lifeless. I don't like wondering how the next round of chemo will affect me differently. But, what I'm really learning is that I don't like being squeezed!

I recently read that just as there is a condition known as "post-traumatic stress", researchers are now talking about "post-traumatic growth." One line of thinking is that adversity can lead to growth. Another is that the highest levels of growth cannot be achieved without adversity.

But adversity doesn't automatically bring growth. Much of the outcome depends on how you respond to adversity. Just as you find out what's inside a tube of toothpaste when it gets squeezed, adversity reveals what you're made of. Sometimes we say, "I could never go through what that person went through." Then we go through it and realize - our heart keeps beating and our world goes on.

You don't know what you're capable of until you have to cope.

As I continue to be squeezed, I pray what comes out will be an encouragement to others. A message of hope that good and growth can come from adversity. A realization that rising to a challenge reveals hidden strengths within us that otherwise would have remained dormant.

More importantly though is that I, along with others being squeezed, recognize that the key to post-traumatic growth is in seeing God in all things, drawing close to Him when we can't understand the situation, and knowing He only has our best interests at heart.

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity....No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."
(Romans 3: 35a,38)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Live Like You're Dying!

I said, Goodbye for now, to two precious friends in 2016. It saddens my heart to know they are no longer here; no longer a phone call or text away. But it gladdens my heart to know they are no longer in pain and suffering from this awful thing called cancer.

I've told my husband that when I'm gone, I don't want my death to be described as "losing her long battle to cancer."  For one thing, battles have winners and losers, and I DO NOT want to be considered a loser. Secondly, there are some battles that can not be won, no matter how hard you fight. There are times when you have to surrender to the facts and go on living... like you're dying.

My friends did just that!  Dee was fiesty and put 110% into everything she did. She loved her family, friends and church community. She hated having to give up her job when the ovarian cancer became too much. Yet, she continued to live out her life in other ways.  She was an encourager and her faith was strengthened every day and in many ways. She was NOT a loser in my eyes; she won the respect of many, the love and support of others and most importantly, her reward of heaven!

Janice didn't "fight" her cancer, she fought for her family everyday. She was determined to have them see her faith played out during her time with sarcoma - a soft tissue cancer that started in her leg and soon spread to other organs. Her leg was eventually amputated in hopes of controlling the spread.

She lived every day to the fullest. She did not let her physical disabilities and limitations interfere with what she wanted to do most - spending time with her young grandchildren! She loved being a grandma, mother, wife and friend. I saw Janice a few days before she passed away (12/22) and while she was weak, she still wanted to know how I was doing! It was never about her; always others. There are hundreds of people in Pontiac (MI) who remember the many Thanksgivings that Janice and her friends would pass out meals to people on the street. I know she heard:  "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
I recently had lunch with a friend whose breast cancer has spread to her bones. We love to laugh at our lives and joke about the crazy things people do and say to us (that's what's important about having a support system that totally understands where you're coming from!) 
Anyway.....she said something that I haven't forgotten. She said that we've (Stage IV Cancer peeps) have been given a gift. We have an insight into how our lives will end - sooner than later - and we now have the chance to do and say things that need to be done and said. We have the opportunity to make things right with others, encourage others, prepare others, enjoy others and love others.
We are LlVING like we're DYING.  Are you?
I hate to be a Debbie-downer, but we're all dying! Do you say "one day" I'll go there or do that? Does "someday" seem like it will never come?  It won't if you don't plan for it.  Don't live your life waiting for the perfect time to enjoy the people, places and things you love.
Make 2017 a year of LIVING, not just EXISTING. Decide on one thing you ARE going to do this year and start making the plans to see it happen. Don't waste the time you have.  Don't waste the relationships you have! Go ahead, start today .........and LIVE like you're DYING!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

MBC 101

The Problem:
Metastatic Breast Cancer involves treatment for the rest of our shortened lives.

The Basics:
Breast cancer that remains in the breast does not kill, although some of the brutal treatments for early stage breast cancer can kill. When breast cancer metastasizes it usually spreads to the bones, brain, lungs and/or liver. It is when breast cancer spreads beyond the breast that it becomes deadly. And although there are treatments that can extend the lives of people with metastatic breast cancer, there is no cure.

The Numbers:
Approximately 40,000 women and men die of breast cancer every year in the US, and this number has not changed meaningfully in 40 years. Worldwide, the annual death toll is about 522,000.

The median survival from diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer is 2-3 years, and this number has not changed meaningfully in 20 years. Only about 24% of patients with metastatic breast cancer will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Metastatic breast cancer is on the rise among women under 40, and has been for the last 30 years. We don’t know how many people who are initially diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease, because the national database that tracks cancer, SEER, does not track when someone’s cancer metastasizes.

Estimates range from 20-36% of women and men with early stage breast cancer will later develop metastatic breast cancer. Because we don’t track when a person’s breast cancer metastasizes, we only have an estimate for how many people are living with metastatic breast cancer in the US right now. That estimate is 155,000.

The Research:
A 2014 study by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance found that only about 7% of all breast cancer research funding goes towards researching metastatic disease. Researchers still don’t know which breast cancers will metastasize and which won’t, because we still don’t know how cancer metastasizes.

Our Culture:
Much of the work done by breast cancer charities has focused on early prevention saving lives. Women with MBC will die of their disease, and feel excluded from this narrative–particularly if they were too young for routine screening, or had early stage disease that later metastasized. Decades of early prevention efforts have not reduced the annual death toll from breast cancer. Early detection is a failed experiment.

Too often, breast cancer charities, in a desperate attempt to fund their programs, partner with corporations whose fundraising campaigns sexualize our disease, or worse, run their own sexploitative fundraising campaigns. These campaigns demean women in general, make women who have lost their breasts to their disease feel worse about their bodies, and ignore the men who get breast cancer. Campaigns like “Save the Tatas” reduce women to their body parts and ignore that the goal of treatment should be to save women’s lives, not their breasts.

Life with metastatic breast cancer involves ongoing treatments for the rest of our shortened lives. There is nothing fun or pink about our experience. Too often, breast cancer charities turn their fundraising events into celebrations with pink feather boas, as though breast cancer is a sorority you get to join by going through the hazing that is treatment. People with MBC will never exit the hazing phase and get to join the sorority.

Written by / December 22, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

You Are Now Stage IV

When you hear the words, “The breast cancer has spread to your liver; you are now Stage IV”, your world and life as you know it are changed forever. You are faced with a crisis of belief and your faith is tested.

That was my experience in August, 2013. During the next year, I would undergo 20 rounds of chemo, 32 radiation treatments and an ablation of the lesion on my liver. In April, 2014, I was considered to be in remission.

While in active treatment, I read a quote by Oswald Chambers: “A crisis doesn’t make a person; it reveals what they are already made of.” My crisis certainly revealed what I was made of – some areas were good, some needed work.

Here are three truths that were confirmed to me at that time:

1) God’s promises are personal. I’ve always admired the Bible characters who acted in great faith during their own crisis of belief because they clung to God’s promises like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. But I never needed to claim these same promises as my own. My crisis didn’t create this truth, I already knew it and just needed to put it into action.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart (and body)
and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

2) God’s presence is permanent. How many times had I heard and even said myself, “God’s with you; you don’t need to be afraid.” I must be honest; this crisis tested my faith on this truth. There were days and nights when I questioned and couldn’t feel God’s presence through the physical and emotional pain. Did that mean He wasn’t there and had abandoned me in my greatest time of weakness? No. Instead His promise was revealed that although He didn’t remove my pain, He was there going through it with me.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

3) God’s peace is perfect.  Isaiah 26:3 says, You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. I was reminded of this truth and promise on several occasions. When you are in active cancer treatment, your calendar fills up quickly with doctor appointments, tests and scans. It’s those days between the test and waiting for the results that can cause the greatest anxiety. It is in these times that your mind can go in a million directions of “what if’s?”

You can’t let your mind wander; it must be steadfast on God and His goodness
and perfect peace at all times.

My crisis didn’t make me who I am, it just revealed and reminded me of what I already know in my heart to be true. What about you? When you’re faced with a crisis of belief, whether it be physical, spiritual, relational, emotional or financial, what does it reveal about what you’re made of?

On April 15, 2015, my faith was tested again when I was told the cancer was back on my liver and that this time it is “not curable, only treatable.” These words can shake your world and trigger a sense of hurt and hopelessness.

My first reaction was anger; not at God necessarily, but at the cancer itself. I was just getting my life back to “normal.” I was a survivor. I had fought cancer and won. I was an overcomer. But on that day in April, all those “victories” meant nothing.

The truth that has been revealed to me now is that this battle is not mine to fight! God’s plans are to prosper me and to glorify Himself and not for me to question or try to control. I Chronicles tells us of the children of Israel crying out to God: They were helped in fighting them (their physical enemies) because they cried out to him during the battle (5:20a).

I don’t know what battle you may be fighting right now or how confident you feel in defeating your “enemies”; I can only speak for myself. And I’m saying, I’m done fighting a battle I have little to no control over. I once thought I was strong enough to fight this enemy of cancer on my own. Being an experienced veteran of this nonsense,
I believed I knew what to do, how to think, what to say, how to feel..... That’s so not the case!

I am in a battle with an enemy that is determined to destroy me. I have no control on what it does to my body. It’s not like heart disease or obesity where you can change your lifestyle and you are cured. Sure, I can eat better, think positive thoughts, pray for healing, but in the end it is God’s battle to fight, not mine (I Chronicles 5:22a).

I have cried out to Him in the middle of this battle because I know He’s going through it with me and I know He hears my cries.  I also know that God will have the final say of when and where I am healed; here on earth or in heaven; but He will heal me. So have I given up? Not at all,

but I have given up using my precious energy trying to beat something bigger and badder
than me and trusting God to do the fighting.
Instead, I am concentrating on living! I am determined to make the most of my good days to do the things I want to do, go the places I want to go and be with the people I want to be with. I try not to (but it’s not always easy) wonder and worry how this battle is going to end but rather fix my mind on God’s perfect peace, taking control of what I can and being grateful for the blessings I have in this present moment.

Are you trying to fight a battle you have no control over? Do you trust God enough to let him handle it? Don’t waste your time and energy stressing over the outcome. Drop your weapons and cry out to God knowing that He hears and have faith that He will answer in His time and in His way. Enjoy what is happening around you today; for tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14