"I was a woman in my early 50's in good health, married for over 20 years with a son in his senior year of high school (who got yearly mammograms since the age of 40) when almost four years ago, on December 22, 2010, I felt a thickening in my left breast. This was six days after my annual mammogram. Within a month, I learned it was estrogen-positive, HER2-negative stage IV breast cancer. Over the next 10 months, I had six rounds of chemo followed by a lumpectomy and 33 radiation treatments. I now take Arimidex daily with PET scans every six months. I have remained stable since my treatment. My joints and feet ache and I move a little slower than I used to, but I do keep moving; I've just learned to pace myself.
"My family knows of my diagnosis but I have chosen not to reveal it to friends and coworkers. I work parttime as a preschool teacher. I’m glad I didn’t quit work after the diagnosis because the job is a welcome distraction from the breast cancer thing.
"While going through treatment that first year, a couple of my doctors kept trying to prescribe antidepressants to me. The drugs made me sick. At one point, I realized I suffered from anxiety, not depression, and a nurse practitioner finally found the right anti-anxiety medication for me: Buspar. I take a mild dose everyday and it literally gave me my life back. Instead of shaking with fear, afraid to leave the sofa, I started moving forward with the every day routine of life. As the saying goes, 'Better living through chemistry.'
"I’ve packed a lot of living into these past few years. I’ve traveled more, like going to NYC, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, a cruise to the Bahamas and hope to do more. I’ve been to concerts and new restaurants, still enjoy shopping, flower gardening, great TV and excellent books. I do more of the things I love and stopped doing things out of obligation. I would never say I needed breast cancer as any kind of wake up call because I was deeply appreciative of all my blessings before this happened. I want to live a full life because do not want breast cancer to rob me of living.
"And this is not a shameless plug for the Breastcancer.org website, but finding this breast cancer forum was a lifesaver. Getting to know others who are dealing with stage IV breast cancer, reading how they cope and continue to live and even enjoy life was a revelation to me and gave me strength to move forward. I can't emphasize that enough.
"I really don’t sit around thinking about what happened four years ago because I am busy living in the present moment. My advice for women new to a stage IV diagnosis is to learn to live in the moment. Don’t project yourself so far into the future. One day can be full of life, take it all in and then wake up tomorrow and do it again. Best wishes to all."
-- TheDivineMrsM, 3.5 years metastatic