Lauralee's Story: Double-Digit Survivorship
You have metastatic breast cancer -- a stage IV cancer. Those are words you never want to hear. How could this be happening to me? I was 48 years old and always did my breast self-examinations, went for clinical exams and had a yearly mammogram.
As a nurse I knew what stage IV meant, and I thought I knew how the story ended. My story, thankfully, has not ended the way I thought it would. I'm still here. My cancerversary was in February. I have been living with stage IV hormone positive breast cancer with metastases to many of my bones for 11 years. I like to say I am into double digits of survivorship.
It seems like it was yesterday that I was diagnosed, but in many respects, it has been a long time. I had a daughter in high school and a son in college. Today both of my children have graduated college and married. The tears I cried at their weddings were happy tears. I have three grandchildren. When I was diagnosed, I never thought I would see these happy days. I still remember driving by cemeteries and thinking maybe I should decide what music to play at my funeral.
The internet might be a great place to compare appliances, but it is a bad place to research an illness. When you read the statistics of how long the average person lives with metastatic breast cancer, you can't think or process. One of the best things I did was to ask my oncologist what was the longest any of his stage IV patients had survived. His answer was fourteen years...and counting. That gave me hope. The next thing that helped me was to call a hotline and speak with a survivor. I was matched up with another metastatic survivor. I asked her how long she had been living with mbc and she said fourteen years.
That was the day that I turned the corner.
Another way I have found to support others and myself is to talk to other women diagnosed with breast cancer. I joined a hotline and answered calls from women who are also stage IV. I have talked with over one hundred women. My first message was always, I want you to know that I am an eleven-year survivor.
Don't get me wrong; there are days when cancer weighs heavily on my mind. That happens when I see my oncologist every two months or wait for the results of testing. I love the initials NED (No Evidence of Disease). I also wonder how I will deal with my cancer spreading, but focusing on living in the moment helps me cope. I also have found that a bit of denial is a good thing!
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