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Doris Ann: LIVING with MBC

Each morning when I awaken, I gratefully take center stage in the theater of my life — celebrating the unique and priceless gift of my existence (or as I like to say, “letting my freak flag fly”). What does that mean? What it means is that I fully embrace who I am — a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners woman who feels comfortable with just being herself. Apparently, I literally wear this attitude, since I am told my strong life energy doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone who is dying of a disease. And, do you know what? — Whenever I hear any message that attempts to frame my vitality within the larger context of my anticipated mortality, it really fires me up! You see, what we all know is something others clearly may not fully comprehend: that every breath we take is proof that we who have been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer are LIVING WITH our disease.

For me, it has been nearly 7 years since I unwittingly embarked on my own challenging journey with Stage IV breast cancer. Back in 2006, when I was an active 59-year old career woman, wife, and mother of two grown children, I suddenly was forced to assimilate the devastating news that the primary breast cancer that initially had been treated successfully 13 years earlier had metastasized to my bones, both lungs, and the lymph nodes above my collarbone. It was 2006, and I had discovered a small hard node above my collarbone and insisted on a biopsy (despite assurances from a former oncologist that the nodule probably was “nothing to worry about.”) The rest (as they say) is history, since that nodule actually became the first evidence of already widespread metastases,

Fast-forward to today: Despite the fact that brain, liver, lung, bone, and lymph node mets have now all taken up residence in my body — my spirit refuses to be crowded out by these unwelcome ‘visitors.’ Indeed, though the physical challenges of living with a progressive disease never cease to remind me of my physical limitations, I am ever mindful and grateful that my spirit continues its positive trajectory, rejoicing every day in the gift of life and continually advocating for myself and others. I hope that one day my advocacy will stand as the hallmark of my legacy. And let me assure you that yours can too, once you direct your energy toward embracing the full spectrum of your life — acknowledging the pain, yet remaining focused on your innate strengths as valued partners in healing.

On a lighter note, may I add that it never fails to tickle me whenever I am told that the fire-engine red shade of lipstick I wear — “Lady Danger” — appears as an external manifestation of my inner fire. I truly relish the mental image that my “freaky” red banner flies in the face of my dire prognosis, warding off that insidious intruder, cancer.