When I was diagnosed with stage 2A HER2-positive breast cancer in 2009, I went to my computer to educate myself about the condition.
After I learned that the disease is very treatable, my search inquiries changed from wondering if I’d survive, to how to treat the condition.
I also started to wonder things like:
- How long does it take to recover from surgery?
- What does a mastectomy look like?
- Would I be able to work while I’m undergoing chemotherapy?
Online blogs and forums were the most helpful in answering these questions. The first blog I found happened to be written by a woman with my same illness. I read her words from beginning to end. I found her very charming. I was horrified to find out that her cancer had metastasized and she had passed away. Her husband wrote a post on her blog with her final words.
When I began treatment, I started a blog of my own — But Doctor, I Hate Pink!
I wanted my blog to serve as a beacon of hope for women with my diagnosis. I wanted it to be about survival. I began to document everything I went through — using as much detail and humor as I could. I wanted other women to know that if I could manage it, so could they.
Somehow, word spread quickly about my blog. The support I received just for sharing my story online was very important to me. To this day, I hold those people close to my heart.
I also found support from other women on breastcancer.org. A lot of the women in that community are also a part of my Facebook group now too.
There are many women with breast cancer who have been able to live long, healthy lives.
Find others who are going through what you’re going through. This disease can have a powerful grip on your emotions. Connecting with other women who have shared experiences can help you to leave some feelings of fear and loneliness behind and move on with your life.
In 2011, just five months after my cancer treatment ended, I learned that my cancer had metastasized to my liver. And later, my lungs.
Suddenly, my blog went from being a story about surviving stage 2 cancer, to being about learning to live with a terminal diagnosis. Now, I was part of a different community — the metastatic community.
The online support I received from this new community meant the world to me. These women weren’t just my friends, but my mentors. They helped me navigate the new world I had been thrown into it. A world filled with chemo and uncertainty. A world of never knowing if my cancer would take me.
My two friends, Sandy and Vickie, taught me to live until I no longer can. They have both passed now.
Sandy lived nine years with her cancer. She was my hero. We would speak online all day bout our disease and how sad we were to leave our loved ones. We would talk about our children too — her kids are the same age as mine.
Vicki was also a mother, although her kids are younger than mine. She only lived four years with her disease, but she made an impact in our community. Her indomitable spirit and energy made a lasting impression. She will never be forgotten.
The community of women living with metastatic breast cancer is large and active. Many of the women are advocates of the disease, like me.
Through my blog, I’m able to show other women that you can live a fulfilling life even if you have breast cancer. I have been metastatic for seven years. I’ve been on IV treatment for nine years. I’ve been in remission for two years now, and my last scan showed no signs of the disease.
There are times I’m tired from treatment, and I don’t feel well, but I still post on my Facebook page or blog. I do this because I want women to see that longevity is possible. Just because you have this diagnosis, doesn’t mean death is around the corner.
I also want women to know that having metastatic breast cancer means you’ll be in treatment for the rest of your life. I look perfectly healthy and have all my hair back, but I still need to get infusions regularly to help prevent the cancer from coming back.
While online communities are an excellent way to connect with others, it’s always a great idea to meet in person too. Getting to talk with Susan was a blessing. We had an instant bond. We both live knowing how precious life is and how important the little things are. While on the surface we may look different, deep down our similarities are striking. I will always cherish our connection, and the relationship I have with all the other amazing women I have known with this disease.
Don’t take for granted what you have now. And, don’t think you have to go through this journey alone. You don’t have to. Whether you live in a city or a small town, there are places to find support.
Someday you may have the chance to guide someone who is newly diagnosed — and you’ll help them without question. We are, indeed, a true sisterhood.