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Pam: A 9 year journey, not a battle

I am 69 years old, retired, and have been living with metastatic breast cancer for over 9 years! I’ve had bad moments, gained some weight, been tired and cranky at times, but I am alive and able to do a lot of the things that have always given me joy.

I walk our two dachshunds every day and marvel at how their compact little bodies move so efficiently! I garden. This spring I planted hollyhocks and they have grown taller than I am and bloomed in wonderful shades of fuchsia and pink and remind me of the flowers of my childhood. I still bake and cook and enjoy meals. I still do the housework that I loath and the writing that I enjoy, and best of all, I can love my family and friends and enjoy time with them.

When I was first diagnosed with this damn cancer, and that is how I think of it, damn cancer, I felt so helpless and out of control. I went to the bookstore, looked at everything there on breast cancer and bought the three books that most spoke to my heart. I put together a large binder with dividers, inserting notes from all my appointments and copies of all the tests, scans and medical reports. Organization made me feel that I had a piece of this cancer business under control.

I would release this damn cancer in a nanosecond if I could, but it has brought some good things into my life: new friends, living more in the moment, a new perspective on what is important and what is trivial. I’ve become a breast cancer advocate and just attended training to volunteer for a breast cancer telephone help line, a role that fits me to a tee.

The first several months with cancer, I had a knot in the pit of my stomach every time I went to the cancer center. I was so scared! Of suffering, pain, losing my dignity (like needing help in the bathroom!) Meeting other women with metastatic breast cancer gave me hope and encouragement. And helped me be less alone with this cancer. When I learned that treatment was working, it was such a relief!

My family has been long lived. My father’s parents lived to 87 and 102. I thought I had to plan and invest to support myself into my 90s and even 100s. Once we realized that was not likely to happen, we splurged and bought a spa for the backyard and my husband and I took a cruise to Alaska.

Having this cancer has pushed me to think about the end of my life and my death in ways that I never thought about before. At this point, my greatest sadness is about leaving my husband. He loves me and he loves being married to me. I trust my oncologist and other doctors to help me remain comfortable. But they can do nothing to ease the distress of leaving a beloved spouse!

My present life is not what I expected it to be ten years ago. It’s a full life and when it is my time to leave this life for whatever is next, I expect to be comfortable, well loved and still loving ………