I thought I’d be happy.
I thought I’d be ecstatic.
I thought I’d be filled with joie de vivre.
March 9th marked the end of my chemotherapy and simultaneously, the beginning of my acknowledgment that for the rest of my life, I will be a metastatic breast cancer patient. The last 4 months have been completely treatment centered; my life has revolved around appointments related to treatment- port draws, oncology appointments, the chemo itself, palliative care appointments (to help manage side effects from the poison being pumped into me, through which I get my pot), and things like acupuncture to help me feel more human… in other words, I’ve been quite busy with appointments pertaining directly to my treatment, and now that a chapter of my treatment has come to an end, what I’m left with is a boatload of time. Time to relive the trauma of the past year beginning with my grandmas death, my diagnosis just 10 days later, to the scans and rediagnosis of stage 4 disease in early November, and the terror I felt all through chemotherapy. Time to ponder the implications of this disease on my future. My life as a “normal” person is over completely. And I’m grieving that. I’m grieving the fact that I may not grow old-the longest a person with metastatic breast cancer has lived is 20 years, the majority live 3-5 years. I’m grieving the fact that I have no desire to sing anymore (because when I do sing, I don’t sound like me, I sound terrible, probably due to the early menopause brought about by chemotherapy). While friends are establishing and nurturing loving relationships with partners, I’m bald and feeling hideous, and also feeling fairly confident that “I have stage 4 cancer” is not something that typically sparks a mood of romance (not that I’m looking right now. But the idea of having a loving relationship with someone is something I think most people desire). When you’re on chemo, it’s your whole world. And now that I’m done with it, I feel like I’ve been dropped off on the edge of a cliff. I should be happy, right? The physical suffering of chemo is done. But the psychological suffering is setting in, in a way that it couldn’t during chemo because I was too busy, honestly. Like I said, part of the problem is the excess time ( I would try to engage in things I enjoy outside of my house, except that it’s basically a white out here in upstate New York). It’s not like I have a job to go back to; I quit my serving job a year ago to begin traveling for grad school auditions. I was supposed to start grad school for voice in a different state, and then I got diagnosed… and I’m not sure I’m even ready to work. (The thought of bar tending and serving to make some much needed money literally makes me want to throw up). I feel like I need to start this new treatment chapter and get a good scan or 2 under my belt, as well as address my mental and emotional health before I can think seriously about what I’d like to do with my life.
Cancer fucking sucks. If you didn’t read my last blog post, please at least sign the petition I pasted into the end of it. It would help me and every other person diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer tremendously. As of right now, we do not know how many women (and men) are living with metastatic breast cancer, which is a problem because that type of information often drives funding for research and treatment development. This is the type of breast cancer that kills. 30% of all people diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic disease, which actually says a lot about the inefficacy of first-line treatment. Until there is a cure for metastatic disease, breast cancer has no cure.
This is an article explaining why this information is important.