So it’s October…also known as “Pinktober” and a few not-so-nice names that I have recently learned.
Last year, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and was excited to participate in the different campaigns then and even more so in the future. I made Love Jars for the treatment center, wore pink regularly and participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. I also participated in a local event with a country radio station and shared my story at the event. It was a lot despite treatment but I wouldn’t change a thing.
I remember going to the Making Strides Walk with my green wig and walking into the Survivor’s Tent. They stopped me and asked if I was, in fact, a Survivor. I smiled and said that I would be once treatment is over but I am surviving right now. They congratulated me and let me in. We wheeled Jacob around, collected our snacks, water & literature and headed out to begin the walk. I remember the heat of the day as the sun rose. I remember removing my wig and feeling the cool air on my very bald head. I remember laughing with my son’s daycare, who graciously supported me that day – t-shirts and all! I remember our family and friends, I remember Jacob and his BFF from the womb strolling around and taking in the sights around them. I remember the cheers, the colors and the endless bottles of water that volunteers passed out. Above all else, I remember the overall feeling of love and support. I remember the smiles. I remember the tears and overwhelming feeling of determination. I remember the signs for people who have passed, people who have just been diagnosed, people fighting now and people who will never stop fighting.
This year, there is not a light at the end of the tunnel but there is a very bright tunnel that will never end. I have metastatic breast cancer. I have breast cancer that has spread past my breast, to most of my lymphatic system, my skin, my bones and my brain. Yes, I am undergoing treatment and it IS working! I will never stop treatment. I will always hold out hope that this treatment will continue to work. But when it doesn’t, I will hold out hope that the next one will. I feel side effects that don’t go away like they used to. My feet hurt often and my skin is taking a long time to heal from radiation. My taste buds have changed along with my diet. I am not as hungry as I once was but I view food as fuel for my body versus a requirement to simply satisfy my hunger before. I required a blood transfusion to increase my counts and yet I am still tired. Tired, all the time. I am only 32.
I am required to ask questions and make decisions that literally affect my life and the length of it. I see multiple doctor’s regularly and seek 2nd opinions on top of that. I make phone calls and follow ups daily to try and stay on top of everything that is happening. It’s a full time job in itself. I have a life to live and decisions to make. I have to plan for a future that is unknown to me. A future that I may or may not be here to see. I do this all with a smile because that is who I am.
I don’t share this because I want sympathy or sadness. I share this because this is metastatic breast cancer. This is stage 4, a terminal disease. I am not giving up. Frankly, I don’t know that I ever can. But I get it. I get the daily struggle. I get the tears; the frustration at yourself and the world. I understand.
But I also understand that every moment that I am granted is a blessing. Each day that I open my eyes is a gift from God. I am blessed with the ability to continue to work and care for my family. I am blessed to be here and to be able to continue fighting. I am blessed that I can rest when I need to and that I have so many loved ones around me that truly care about the well-being of me and my family.
This October, you will be bombarded by pink – there is no doubt about that. I am fairly certain that everything in existence forms a pink counterpart in some way. J I ask that you take a second look before spending your hard earned money. Make sure that what you are purchasing is actually contributing to breast cancer research. Make sure there is not a limit to the funds that the company will donate (Ex. Will donate up to $100, despite how many we sell). Make sure that the company isn’t just selling pink for the sake of selling pink.
If you want to donate to Stage 4 research specifically, there is an organization called METavivor.org that literally spends 100% of donations on research for this disease. There are also local organizations that contribute funds and assistance to local families who are dealing with this terrible disease. You can google your own local places or I would be happy to share some of ours.
October is a big month for breast cancer awareness and I am grateful that we continue to spread the awareness of this disease. However 30% of early stage breast cancers, like mine, turn into a Stage 4 metastatic diagnosis. We don’t just need awareness…we need research. We need a cure.
I will continue to give back. I will continue to make Love Jars, though I have taken a break since July. I will continue to share my journey in the hopes of teaching or inspiring others. And above all else, I will continue to rally with my community. Through volunteering, walks or simply sharing my story, I will join forces with the people around me in the hopes of helping even just one person. The amazing people that I have met “randomly” over the last year are some of the very best friends that I could ever ask for. They have changed my life for the better.
Spread the love, my friends. Enjoy this day and all of the days ahead of you.