July 12th is 20yrs...20yrs ago today my father died of cancer. 20yrs to the day I sit in the same cancer centre waiting to hear the results of my most recent scans. It's impossible not to think of all he went through while trying to raise a young family, all well knowing that everything they tried was simply a Hail Mary. Nobody survived his type of cancer. In fact, at the time, they told him chemo would have no benefit. Surgery was too late to offer any form of extension of life, so he endured. Symptom management...all the while feeling like he was drowning. Out of all the scans I've had through the years, awaiting results today was by far the hardest. Hardest because my father lived less than two years after his diagnosis and the cancer steadily just progressed. I think back to his hopeless situation and can't even mentally fathom living it and what his thoughts may have been that he never expressed to his family. Ask any of us with stage IV cancer, and I believe many don't disclose every day that they can't get out of bed, are unable to eat, and are in so much pain they can't picture things getting any better. Sadly, the hardest component is simply living in your head with the "what ifs," the constant uncertainty of what your scans may unveil while living with the certainty that it's not a fixable situation. You keep the darkest thoughts to yourself because you don't want those you love to feel the same level of fear, sadness, anger, and uncertainty that one with metastatic cancer feels daily.
I'll keep this short as it was good news at my appointment. Still stable with some activity noted in my sternum. Not super surprised as I've had some more pain to my chest, but all within a bearable parameter. I will say once you've been diagnosed with metastatic cancer, the word "bearable" takes on a different meaning as sometimes you don't realize how bad the pain is as you just kind of get used to it and live with it. What all this means is I will continue on with my current chemo and Herceptin infusions. This month officially makes it THREE YEARS I have been kept stable on this chemo which, in the metastatic setting, is beyond unbelievable considering the average life expectancy once diagnosed with MBC wavers around 2-3yrs. Yes, I'm thankful I'm alive and my scans are good, but today wasn't about celebrating as much as it was about remembering the fact that, despite 20yrs going by, people continue to die of cancer. Not just MBC, but many, many other types of horrible cancers that rob too many people in the prime of their lives. Will it ever get better?
I have been "lucky" in the sense that I have gotten over 4yrs since my MBC diagnosis and, despite toxic side effects, I live my life. I speak of all cancers when I say just how purely horrible and sinister they are. This isn't just about all the physical pain, but the psychological torment it perpetuates on a day to day basis.
My father taught me what true strength and resiliency was. I'm happy to still be here and I am forever grateful that I lucked out with an amazing medical oncologist and nurse that have kept me alive and sane through these years. Here's to life continuing on, stability remaining, and for better days for so many that are currently struggling to simply stay alive. This is about the massive cancer pandemic that exists in our world today...it isn't going away, and it sure isn't getting better. It makes me sad that despite 20years passing, new technology popping up every year (iPhones i'm looking at you), space travel, and all the major feats through the years; cancer still exists and we still can't figure out how to cure these complex diseases. I will continue to live off hope that one day we can see advancements in cancer that can parallel the rate as to which we see technological advancements...because if we don't, I can't even imagine how many families will be impacted in some way by all the awfulness that a cancer diagnosis imparts. Here's to more days...more research funding...and continued hope that leads to better outcomes for everyone who ever needs to hear those dreaded words: "I'm sorry but you're cancer can no longer be cured."