Thursday, 25 February 2016

Stage IV and beyond... ~ Vicky


June 19th 2006 is one of those dates I’ll never forget. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of cancer when at the tender age of 31 I was diagnosed with a grade 1, stage 1 primary breast cancer.

In a nutshell, I had surgery, was told to go away and have the family we so desired and in the nicest possible way, never to darken the doorstep of Oncology again!  I took on the mission and welcomed my children in 2008 and 2010, and over time and with optimism, cancer was relegated to lower leagues while I threw myself into family life.

Fast forward to early 2015, I developed difficulties with my usually trouble-free back, and at the same time was called for investigations on a suspicious axillary lymph node that had reared its head on a routine check-up. 

And so it came…the first strike…the cancer was back!

Then June 16th 2015, the big C bomb dropped…it was stage IV/metastatic breast cancer.

There is no stage V.

So there it is…40 years old with a metastatic cancer diagnosis. Let’s leave that hanging for a moment.

~

So, what is stage IV/advanced/metastatic breast cancer?

Millions of cancer cells form a tumour. The original cancer in the breast is known as a primary breast cancer.  People do not die from cancer that remains in the breast area.

Secondary breast cancer occurs when breast cancer cells spread from the primary cancer in the breast to other parts of the body. This may happen through the lymphatic or blood system.

You may hear it referred to as:

  • metastatic breast cancer
  • metastases
  • advanced breast cancer
  • secondary tumours
  • secondaries
  • stage 4 breast cancer.

The most common areas breast cancer spreads to are the bones, lungs, liver and brain. When breast cancer spreads, for example to the bones, it is called secondary breast cancer in the bone. The cancer cells in the bone are breast cancer cells. 

A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer means that the cancer can be treated but cannot be cured. The aim of treatment is to control and slow down the spread of the disease, to relieve symptoms and to give the best possible quality of life, for as long as possible, but this can vary significantly between individuals.

Information about metastatic/advanced breast cancer can be found at www.secondhope.org.uk

~

So here I am now living with an illness that will cut my life short one day when the treatment options run out, but I suppose tomorrow is never a given to any one of us. However MOST people will grow old with their loved ones and live to see their children/nieces/nephews move on through their lives, careers, get married and have their own children.

We should perhaps live in the moment more and less emphasis should be put on milestones, but the uncertainty of living with a life limiting illness is not the same as the general uncertainty of everyday living. Nobody knows what might happen when they leave the house each day, but this is different. You do find yourself looking ahead; wondering if you’ll be one of the lucky ones who make double figures, if you'll see your young children hit milestones, guide them through adolescence and less likely into adulthood.

While wading through a sea of uncertainty, I read a comment on a forum about traumatic events happening in our lives for a reason, to make us stronger or help us grow, but this just doesn't sit right with me. Almost immediately I stumbled upon a blog by Tim Lawrence examining the topic of resilience in the face of adversity. He lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and believes no one should face adversity alone. He published a post entitled 'Everything Doesn't Happen For A Reason', which really struck a chord with me.

I have never questioned why me? Because I suppose why not me? But like Tim, I cannot accept that there is an underlying reason for the hand I have been dealt. My diagnosis may give me more focus but will taint my life in other ways. Our children may be encouraged into a purposeful life as a result but it will destroy our family unit, and where's the reason in that?  My family, friends and our incredible children do not deserve this, and neither do I.

There is often expectation that the only option in these circumstances is to always think positive but the post reinforced that I can give myself permission to be sad and grieve for the life I had and for my young family's future...this is normal behaviour in the face of adversity.  So between my own abundance of positivity, strength, resistance and even normality, I am allowed to feel the way I do now and again when the waves of grief and devastation crash over me and sometimes continue their onslaught all day. What I have learned though is that on those days I know I can make it out of the other side and pick myself up, and that as long as I do, our family unit will lso will tarnish my life in others. My children may be encouraged into a purposeful life as a result of this but the other side is that it will destroy our family unit, and where's the reason survive for now. Slowly, quietly, never giving up.

I cannot fix this but I will carry it.




http://www.timjlawrence.com/blog/2015/10/19/everything-doesnt-happen-for-a-reasonnnot accept that this needs to happen to me in order for me and my family to grow.


This article has helped confirm that I do not have to think positive all the time as is often expected and unfortunately this is me now so if people can't handle me having negative, down days I cannot use energy on this. I am allowed to grieve for the life I had, the life I want, which is not to be embroiled in stage 4 cancer, and to grieve for my young family's future. In between my positivity and strength I am allowed to feel the way I do on some days when the waves of grief and devastation crash over me and sometimes continue their onslaught all day. What I have learned though is that on these days I know I can make it out of the other side and pick myself up ready for battle again and as long as I do, our family unit will survive for now. I cannot fix this but I will





12 comments:

Tamsin Sargeant said...

Hi Vicky, thank you for sharing your experience. Not everything happens for a reason, though as human beings, its only natural that we try and find meaning in our experiences. There's a book called 'Smile or Die' which calls into question the way that we experience this huge pressure to be positive, when our emotions and experiences lead us to mourn as well as celebrate. I think what you describe is the embodiment of panning for gold. You are AMAZING! Lots of love, Tamsin x

Anonymous said...

Comment from Centre's fb page by MT on 26/02/2016

Vicky, this has brought a tear to my eye. You're an amazing women and are heading into the fight with such dtermination. You give reason to the madness and hope when it feels like there is none. I am proud to call you my friend. If there is anything positive that can come from BC it's that a network of support and friendship gets built. BC brought us and others together, a strong force! One day we may be beaten by it, but it will never take our humour, resilience and tenacity. Xxxx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Centre's fb page by HS on 26/02/2016

Beautifully written Vicky, very powerful, real and important words. It cannot be easy to share these thoughts but it's so good that you have. Much love and support to you xxxx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Centre's fb page by TS on 26/02/2016

Hi Vicky, I feel so lucky to know you and that something sparked between us to find gold, in let's face it, what feels like being in a dust storm. I lost my breathe when I read your diagnosis of secondary breast cancer was only a few days short of 10 years. I love that Naz has called you an 'icon' of resilience. Remember, we go slowly, we go quietly, never giving up. Tamsin xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

Wow, there are no words, just wow. Huge hugs. xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

Words fail me, sending love and best wishes xx

VixyPixy said...

Comment from Facebook by Naz on 26/02/2016

Love, love, love! You are a prime example of courage, flexibility and strength. You educate and inspire! We are not defined by what we take with us, but by what we leave behind. xxx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

I feel exactly the same. xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

Brilliantly written, powerful and emotive xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

Well that certainly brought a tear .. Wonderfully written and so inspirational for others to read ...hugs coming your way. xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

Thank you for sharing Vicky. So well written and so inspiring. Love and virtual hugs. xx

Anonymous said...

Comment from Facebook on 26/02/2016

I have just read this and I am moved to tears Vicky. This piece radiates courage and truth, it's very real and very raw. There is no beating about the bush, but there is also gentle appreciation of a life well lived, one day at a time. Sending lots of love xxx