The moment I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer I begin to live with uncertainty—what comes next? Will the test results be good? How will things change for me? What happens with my friends, family, job? How can I deal with all this? I couldn’t change most things about metastatic breast cancer, but I can and did learn to live with the uncertainty of my new life.
I was diagnosed with mets when I was 46 years old. I didn’t even know I had breast cancer and I have said many times I didn’t even know what mets were. My right lung had collapsed from the cancer and I was in the hospital for that when I was told. I didn’t understand how serious this was until the social worker told me my then 10 year old son would ask if I was going to die and I should not lie to him. That’s when the reality sank in. That’s when I realized everything was uncertain. I didn’t know what would happen. No one could have predicted what did happen in my life since then.
That was in November of 1999. I was treated 39 times with taxotere and herceptin and then I settled in to a regimen of aromatase inhibitors for more than five years. While I felt relatively good, I always knew that the cancer could return and probably would. In December 2007, it did. It was now in my liver as well as both lungs. I started weekly treatment in January 2008 which I continued through December 2008 when I had to have surgery to remove my infected port. I have been on herceptin alone since then. Even though the treatment has been very rough at times over these last nine and a half years—losing my nails, toenails and dropping down to 79 pounds, constant vomiting, mouth sores—I believe that the mental fight can be harder.
I live in a constant state of hopeful dread. I am hopeful I will be stable. I dread that my next test will show I am not. My son is now 20 and in college, and he says he cannot remember a time in his life when I didn’t have breast cancer. He has learned to live with uncertainty too. All of our families learn to. As do our friends.
Editor’s note: Sadly, Susan passed away on August 19, 2011. Read this tribute to her.