I was recently diagnosed with stage iv triple negative breast cancer. This wasn’t my first time with it – three years ago, I received my initial diagnosis of stage 3 of the same disease. Once I finished treatments – mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation – I was told I was “cured.” I thought I was done.
Not so. In 2018 I had my first recurrence (a tumor near my ribs) and had surgery to remove it.
In the spring of this year, late March 2019, nearly three years to the day, I was diagnosed with a second recurrence. This time, metastatic. Another tumor in the same area as last year’s, plus lesions in my right upper arm bone, and a suspicious, to-be-watched lesion on my liver.
The cancer had spread. It had metastasized.
And what “metastatic” means to me is “inoperable.” It means terminal. It means The Rest of Your Life.
It means: You’ll never be free of it, it’s here to stay.
The hope I once had of returning to normal is gone. Gone. I will now be living with cancer for as long as I am alive.
And so once again I make adjustments. I grieve, my husband and I talk about our options, we regroup.
I wanted this post to be about jealousy. I wanted to talk about what this new diagnosis means in terms of loss and change, and the way I feel and talk about time. I wanted to talk about what energy means, what an average day used to feel like, and what it is now. How making coffee was just that, and not an arduous series of breaths, painful movements, knocked-over cups and then utter, exhausted relief in crash-sitting to drink it.
I wanted to talk about the ache I feel when I scroll through social media sites and witness families smiling in the sun, a photo of a mother and child in an inner tube on a river, a lazy and slow river where on a beach dogs and small children upon arrival run to greet them. I wanted to write about the long-held ache in my throat when photo after photo of mountains, some friend’s reunion in a cabin, the Paris couple’s kiss, the neighbor’s good times at the local pub, and all of their clicked “likes” and “looking good” comments show up on my feed as if everything were normal. As if time, like the lazy river, was to be had in these long hours, fistful after fistful, all of us just looking around in total wonder, endlessness its own known gift.
Dear god, I miss the eyes half-closed sheer bliss of not knowing it, all’s well, fat tire tube and being just another body in a lit, slow-moving, unpunctured ring.
I wanted to talk about the italics of energy and normal, the new italics of time. Each of these words is stretching forward past itself in an attempt to grab more, take more, because their own current letter legs are weak. Today’s an unknown, the words seem to tell me, so make sure there’s a bit of them in the future. Bank all three: energy, normal, time. Always lean towards the next hour, the next day.
-Is not how I really want to live, though. Too much leaning forward means a weaker grounding, means the weight on one’s footing is likelier to sway. It means I’m not here fully. It means rush and hurry.
I’m so jealous of other people’s lives. Their health, their beautiful families, their cancer- and fear-free lives—
the ability to plan, to think in one- and five-year increments. The gift of time that is handed to them. The safety glass that still protects their days — it’s an illusion of course but they still have it—
Maybe that’s you? Lucky. You’re a lucky one. And you’re innocent of course. How would you know, did I know, that we had that luck when we had it? No one does. It’s the nature of health to be unseen until it’s not. It’s a Plexiglass dome on top of a building.
For me, that safety glass is gone now. A wind is blowing and always will blow. It’s a closer step now to a long way down.
I feel obligated to write something hopeful but I can’t.
It feels more authentic to me to just stay here and say: sudden.
To say: time.
I am not a comfort.
11 thoughts on “Jealousy and Metastatic Cancer with a Disappointing Ending.”
Thank you for putting into words the scary, painful way that “treatment” of this horrible TNBC can be. I’m trying to fight side effects to stay in a clinical trial of Keytruda for those of us at Stage III. Sending you strength and blessings as you move forward.
PaulaAtlanta, I wish you strength as you navigate the process. Thank you so much for your kind words.
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What if this was ten years ago and there was no social media, no vacation posts, no families, no faces to evoke jealousy? Can you turn Facebook off for the face of a flower? I don’t know anything, you know, and just have a billion questions about how to live to the end. Will I be brave enough to say what you’ve said? But I am listening, and appreciate that you have words for these feelings. Bless you, my heart.
Blessings back at you. The face of a flower sounds so much better than Facebook’s curated and self-aggrandizing poses. I do need a break from it. But I do enjoy it as a tool to stay in touch with others. Balance and moderation, I think. Thank you as ever for stopping by. ❤️
I was reluctant to hit the like button, for all the obvious reasons but this is such a powerful piece of writing and I wanted to send some strength to your elbow, somehow.
ThNk you kindly, WeeGee! Strength received. ❤️
To me, you are a comfort. Whenever I see words I have felt written down so honestly, it’s a huge comfort.
I was diagnosed Stage 4 right out of the gate on 2/5/2016. I still only have bone Mets , I’m on ibrance and letrozole with an xgeva shot every 3 months.
When I was diagnosed I decided to keep it secret , besides my husband knowing. So far I have been successful with it. I don’t want to be pitied or treated differently.
Your blog is terrific and I hope you know, you are not alone.
All the best 💕
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Tina, thank you so much. I think keeping our diagnoses secret or public is definitely personal, but I have also been less willing to talk about it this time. It’s my third round, and I am tired, and I do not want to be defined by this disease. So I hear you. Thank you so much for your kind words.
I have tried to comment on this post a few times since first reading it and can’t find the words. I am walking a similarly blighted path to you, with the doctors and not being heard, with the horror of the TNBC Stage 4 diagnosis, with the jealousy, with the overwhelming fear. You are stronger than I to still be able to scroll through social media – I have never allowed myself to want things I cannot have… I see unfettered happiness and the promise of a future and knowing that these things are lost to me forever makes me want to hurl myself against a wall (If I had the energy, which I don’t.) Social media accounts: deleted. Ties to the outside world slowly severed. Treasured clothes I will never fit into again shredded into rags. I am erasing myself slowly but surely.
There is a comfort in words like yours that resonate so strongly even though I wish wish wish it wasn’t you going through this, wish it wasn’t us, wish it was just a nightmare to be woken scrabbling screaming from
May your treatments not be too taxing, may they work to buy you time, may your liver behave itself. May you continue to write!
Oh, Cat, these words:” Ties to the outside world slowly severed. I am erasing myself slowly but surely.” They fill me with ache because of their truth. I so hear you.
May you, too, continue to find strength in each day. I wish it wasn’t us or anyone else too. Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean the world. XO Jojo