My name is Victoria, I’m 41, and I have metastatic breast cancer (MBC). I’ve been married to my husband, Mike, for 19 years, and together we have two children.
I’ve done everything in my life that’s supposed to keep things like this disease away.
I have no history of cancer in my family, I tested negative for the BRCA gene mutation, I eat pretty healthy, drink alcohol in moderation, don’t smoke, and I exercise five days a week. But yet, here I am.
The good news is that as long as there's life, there truly is hope. So, of the many pieces of advice given to me over the past several months since my diagnosis, here are my top three.
Take it one day at a time
Since my diagnosis, it seems as if the clock is ticking faster, and there’s so much to do yet little time to do it all. Between all the testing and treatments and family obligations, I've often felt a little overwhelmed.
I've found that it’s good to take a step back and take time for myself. Self-care is so important in order to cope mentally and adapt physically to the changes in your life and your body. Your body will often let you know when it's time to rest. Other times, your brain will take the lead.
I've taken it one day at a time and tried not to stress over the things that I can’t control. I take time to unplug and just be. Whether I’m listening to music or having a silly conversation, I've found it very important to keep on laughing and living.
Relax and disregard all the “what-ifs” running around in your head. It’ll stress you out more than the disease itself.
And even when those thoughts enter my mind, I’m lucky that my husband reminds me that there's no use wasting time and energy on that which we have no control over. We’ll cross those bridges when we get there.
Avoid “Dr. Google”
Why do we run to the internet for answers for everything? Is it the fear of the unknown, or is it that we must know the cause and cure right away? Either way, not only can statistics found on the internet be scary, but they can also be inaccurate.
When I first began searching for information on stage IV breast cancer online, I read that the prognosis is roughly three years. I was immediately disheartened. I read and reread that statement because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
My stress levels immediately went through the roof. I have kids and I want to see them grow into adulthood, I have places to travel to, and I have so much left to experience in this crazy world of ours.
While those statistics were partially correct, there was no mention that those statistics are about five years old. And more people are now living longer with MBC thanks to better and more treatment options.
Forget about getting medical answers about your specific diagnosis on the internet. If it were that easy, physicians would be out of their jobs.
Each of us is different — MBC isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of situation. Google might be good to answer questions about fashion, for example, but you should always talk to your medical team about serious health matters.
Just say yes and accept help
After my diagnosis, my circle of friends immediately jumped into action. One organized a meal train for me. Another one drove me to some of my appointments, and a third friend helped me pick up my kids from school.
You may find it difficult to accept help, especially if you’re used to doing everything for yourself and your family. But I learned quickly that the days of juggling it all by myself are gone.
Life can be exhausting when you’re a healthy individual, and even more so when you’re in active treatment.
I accepted and welcomed the help, as it allowed me to check off more items on my to-do list. These simple acts of kindness really helped, especially on days following chemo when my fatigue would kick in.
Say yes to offers of help that you receive, whether it’s carpooling your little ones to school, a meal for your family, or cleaning services. Accept these offers with gratitude.
There will be both good and bad days with MBC, and preferably, we’ll have more good days than bad ones. But if we take it one day at a time, one issue at a time, we can cope better with living metastatically.
While we shouldn’t live in denial, we must try to forget about the statistics online for a bit, as they can only add unnecessary stress. And as we say yes to help from family and friends, we’re allowing ourselves valuable time to focus and be as active as we can, doing the things that we love.
Victoria is a stay-at-home wife and mom of two living in Indiana. She has a BA in Communication from Purdue University. She was diagnosed with MBC in October 2018. Since then, she has been very passionate about MBC advocacy. In her free time, she volunteers for various organizations. She loves traveling, photography, and wine. She can be found on Instagram @theregionandbeyond.