Counting Up – Not Down

My youngest son has terrible allergies to trees, weeds, and grasses. So much so, that we are in the process of having him get weekly allergy shots. The entire process will take about 3 years, but then he should be “cured” of his allergies.
My husband and I were shaking our heads about the fact that we didn’t realize how bad his allergies were for so many years. We would always get a live Christmas tree, and it just didn’t really register that he always would get so sick each Christmas. Doh!
So, this year, my husband said, we should just get a small artificial tree – something we can use for the next couple of years until he is better. Makes sense. But in my head, came the count down.
Also, my oldest son just started high school this year and went to his first Homecoming game and dance this last weekend. He went with his buddies and they all looked so darn handsome. It really tore at my heartstrings and… of course, that also started me doing the count down.
Average median life expectancy is 3 years for someone with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). I’ll be at 2 years this December. How many Christmases will I have left? How many dances, Proms, baseball games, first dates for my boys? Probably quite a few, but on average only about 22% of MBC folks live past five years. So you see, every month is breast cancer awareness month for me because every month has some special meaning or event or something that makes me think about how long I have to live.
So far, I count the blessing that the breast cancer has only spread to my bones. Keeping it out of my soft tissue organs will be a key to my longevity. But there’s very little that I can do to prevent the spread to my organs – it’s just a matter of time.
So, that’s the thing – rather than count down, I’ll concentrate on counting up… counting up the good memories and experiences, counting up the huge amount of friends and loved ones in my life, counting up all the good fortune that has and is bestowed on me daily. Instead of thinking about how long I have to live, I’ll focus on how well I need to live. Make everything count – because everything does count!
One last thing – today, September 21st, is designated as a social media take over day for MBC. Our tag line for awareness and educational materials is #beyondthebreast. Please share this link to help us “spread” the word (pun intended)!

Change in the Weather

It’s Fall in Colorado. It’s a beautiful time of year here. A quick drive to the mountains and you can see the aspen trees changing color, hear the elk bugling, and feel the coolness in the evening air that makes for great sleeping. It even snowed a bit at The Maroon Bells already.  Yes – change can be beautiful and serene. It can also be heartless and chaotic.

As someone with Metastatic Breast Cancer, a/k/a Stage IV Breast Cancer, change such as elevation in tumor markers, increased pain, and higher fatigue, can all signal a change for the bad. The P-word:  Progression.  It was just July when I had my last PET scan; something we “Metsters” do about every 6 months to keep an eye on the beast inside of us. The report came back that I had improved overall, with a bit of progression, but nothing alarming. My oncologist was optimistic. Everything seemed to be going well, except for those pesky tumor markers. The CEA and the CA 27-29. Normal for the CA 27-29 is <40 and >100 signifies cancer is present. CEA is normal at <2.5. In late August, I rang in at 137.3 (CA 27-29) and 1425.6 (CEA).  That last one kicked me right in the gut!

So what did that mean? My numbers had double in just 2 months. The docs will always tell you that these markers are just one of many indicators about how you are doing. How do you feel, are you sleeping, normal activities, your last scan, it’s all a story to be pieced together. And how did I feel? Well, now I was stressed out and not sleeping… and all of a sudden my back seemed to hurt. Were these psychosomatic symptoms? Am I a terminally ill hypochondriac? WTF?

My oncologist wanted more scans ASAP – a CT Scan and a Bone Scan. Ugh. Was change here? If so, it surely wouldn’t be for the good. Time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the upcoming shit storm.

And then, the skies cleared. Both scan reports were okay. I’m holding my own – no soft tissue involvement and some improvement and slight progression in different areas of my bones, but we’ll call that “stable.” Hold the course – that’s what the doc said. Am I relieved?  Of course, I mean mostly… but still keeping my eye on the skies and my finger in the air… after all, it’s just like the weather in Colorado.