"I was 'surprisingly' diagnosed with Stage IV IDC with mets to bone on 4/14/16.
"I had the hardest time getting my primary care physician to get to the bottom of my debilitating back pain, which started in January 2016. Since I'm 57 years old, I thought all the pain I was having in my spine was because of arthritis and maybe a bulging disk or two – which I actually have. But I wanted a more definitive diagnosis, so in March, I went back to see my doctor again and said, 'Physical therapy and the strongest prescription of ibuprofen isn't working. It's getting worse…we need to do some tests and see what's really going on.'
"The first part of April, I was making plans to see another doctor outside my health provider network since my doctor wasn't doing squat. That never transpired because a new little adventure started when I woke up at 2:30 am on 4/11 and could NOT move without the worst pain I ever experienced in my life shooting up my spine (way worse than labor pains - and I had back labor for over 40 hours without an epidural, so I know what pain is...I never cried at all during labor, but I certainly cried during this episode of pain). My husband called emergency and they said, 'Do not move her! Call the paramedics and have them bring her in.'
"After a couple of injections of Fentanyl and Delaudid, the ER doctor said I needed to go back to my primary doctor and get a scan. He couldn't authorize it himself. So the next day, my husband and I went back to my doctor and asked for a scan – I was in a wheelchair and could hardly speak because of the pain.
"Once again, she refused. 'It's not going to change the original diagnosis. You just need more physical therapy and stronger meds.'
"'My wife has excruciating pain shooting up her spine every time she tries to move! She wasn't having that two days ago. We're not leaving your office until we get a scan like Dr. X in the ER said to do,' my husband demanded.
"Rolling her eyes and heaving an exasperated sigh, the doctor sad, 'Well, if you insist, I can possibly squeeze you in this afternoon…'
"The following morning, after my MRI, my doctor called me at home. Boy, did that 'C U Next Tuesday' change her tune. 'You have tumors all up and down your spine. Tumors in your pelvis, on your kidneys, adrenals and bladder. Tumors in the muscles adjacent to the spine and bone marrow abnormalities in your hip bones and pelvic bones….' (It's a good thing I was sitting down.) 'Given these extensive metastases, the cancer usually starts in the colon, lung, or breast. We have to find out where the primary cancer is coming from, so you need to go in tomorrow for a CT scan and a mammogram.'
"There is no history of breast cancer in my family, going back to my great grandparents. So this was a complete surprise -- or rather shock -- to me. I regularly get mammograms. Incidentally, I had one exactly ONE YEAR to the date before my diagnosis, and it was clean. My type of breast cancer was classified as 'occult' (hidden), 'amorphic' (without shape) because it cannot be seen even on a digital mammogram. The only way they could detect it was by a dye-infused CT scan. The radiation specialist saw 'a shadowy, questionable area on the lower outside quadrant' of my left breast. A core biopsy the following week confirmed cancer in the left breast and adjacent lymph nodes.
"Yep, fun times ahead. No surgery for me. It wouldn't do any good – the horse was already out of the barn, and during surgical recovery time, all the other tumors would continue to grow. So I was scheduled for radiation a week later – 10 zaps for this round, with Zometa bone infusions and Xeloda (capecitabine) pill-form chemo to follow.
"Comparatively speaking, I'm blessed because I get around with a cane now and only use a wheelchair for long jaunts at the mall. I don't have to use a walker anymore; I can dress myself and wipe my own butt again. I can even drive short distances, but I still have a lot of pain in my lower back and can't stand up for very long. My radiation onc says I will probably have more 'palliative' radiation on the lower spine once I'm off capecitabine. He doesn't want to do it concurrently with chemo because my side effects will worsen exponentially.
"And the side effects have already been HORRIBLE - especially the intermittent diarrhea and abdominal pain, regardless of what I eat or drink. Some days I can't leave home because I'm a prisoner of the bathroom. The hand and foot syndrome is manageable but persistent. God bless all you gals out there who are still working while going thru this. I miss my job and my coworkers, but I certainly can't work right now...I can't even make a fist or hold tools, and I don't think the boss would appreciate one of his employees constantly running to the lavatory and stinking it up - at least 5X a day. (I'm considering buying stock in the companies that make Imodium and Lomotil.)
"Even though it's been emotionally and physically trying, I have strong faith -- that's the only thing that's getting me through this...if I didn't have faith, family, and great friends, I probably would have blown my brains out or swallowed a bottle of pills by now. I try to live day by day – sometimes hour by hour – and not project too far into a future I may not have. (e.g.. I worry about the side effects from upcoming hormone therapy since they say that it can be just as bad as pill-form chemo, sigh.) None of us chose cancer -- it chose us. We didn't do anything to deserve this horrible disease, but I believe it will make us all better people: more humble, compassionate, and forgiving. We appreciate the little things a lot more now, and Romans 8:28 says, 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.' I don't know what His purpose is yet, but I know whatever happens, the glory will indeed be His.
"God bless you on each of your difficult journeys. I'll be praying for all of us.
"[My picture is of me] with my beloved rescue English Bulldog, Sofia, who brings great joy and comfort to my life...and my mascots, Olaf and Lou Seal (SF Giants)."
--Lita57, diagnosed metastatic in April 2016