Living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is one of the wildest roller coasters I’ve ever ridden. It’s an old wooden one, where the seatbelt just doesn’t do a thing.
I slowly bounce my way to the top, take a wide turn, and drop down towards the ground with my heart still in the sky. I bang back and forth and fly through the wooden beams. I wonder if that’s where I was coming from or where I’m going.
I’m left lost in the maze. It’s pulling me so fast that there’s no time to even realize what’s actually happening or where I’ll end up. It starts to slow down just long enough to give me a nice view of the beauty around me. Then it begins to whip me around again. Only this time, I’m going backwards.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. Voices, faces, music, and words flood my mind. A smile begins to form ear to ear as my heartbeat slows back down.
This ride is not stopping anytime soon. I begin to get used to it.
Sometimes my friends and family join me in the car behind. Most of the time I’m alone. I’ve learned to be OK with this.
Sometimes it’s easier to ride alone. I’ve realized that even when I’m alone, a few comforting phrases will stick with me forever.
It was 11:07 a.m. on a Tuesday when I got the call from my doctor saying I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I began breaking my loved ones’ hearts as I shared the news of the metastases of this awful disease. We sat, we sobbed, and we were silent in embrace.
When you find out someone has cancer, you can’t help but think of death. Especially when it’s stage 4 from the start.
The 5-year survival rate when breast cancer has metastasized to distant parts of the body is just 27 percent. This statistic would scare anyone. But I don’t have to be a statistic. At least not yet.
I was sick of people grieving me like I was already gone. I felt the urge to combat this sense of mourning and prove to everyone that I’m still me. I’m not dead yet.
I made it through chemo, surgery, and radiation alive. I’m beating the odds one day at a time.
I know that there’s a good chance the dormant cancer inside me will one day wake up again. Today is not that day. I refuse to sit around waiting for that day to come.
Here I am. Thriving. Loving. Living. Enjoying the life around me. I won’t, not once, let anyone think they’re getting rid of me that easy!
My husband and I were about to start trying for a third child when I was diagnosed with MBC. Doctors abruptly and strongly discouraged me from carrying any more children. My dream of having a big family was simply not going to happen.
There was no arguing. If I wanted to keep my hormone-positive MBC at bay, my doctors told me that I should not put my body through another pregnancy.
I knew that I should just be grateful for the children I already have. But my dreams were still crushed. It was still a loss.
I trained so long for a half marathon that I now can’t complete. I can’t have any more children. I can’t follow my new career path. I can’t keep my hair or my breasts.
I realized that I had to stop fixating on what I couldn’t control. I’m living with stage 4 cancer. Nothing I do could stop what’s happening.
What I can control is how I cope with change. I can accept this reality, this new normal. I can’t bear another child. But I can choose to love the two I already have a whole lot more.
Sometimes, we just need to move through our grief and let go of the unfortunate side of things. I’m still grieving my losses after cancer. I’ve also learned to outweigh them with gratitude for what I do have.
I once dreamed of lying in bed all day and letting other people fold my laundry and entertain my kids. When the side effects of treatment turned this dream into a reality, I refused.
I woke by 7:00 a.m. every morning to the pitter-patter of little feet down the hallway. I barely had enough energy to open my eyes or crack a smile. Their little voices asking for “pancakes” and “snuggles” forced me up and out of bed.
I knew my mom would be over soon. I knew the kids could wait for her to feed them. But I’m their mother. They wanted me, and I wanted them.
The nagging list of demands actually gave me a sense of worth. It forced me to move my body. It gave me something to live for. It reminded me that I couldn’t give up.
I continue to push through every obstacle for these two. Not even cancer can knock the mommy out of me.
I’ve always lived one step ahead of life for as long as I can remember. I was engaged before graduating college. I planned my pregnancy before my wedding day. I was devastated when it took longer than expected to conceive. I was ready to have another baby as soon as my first child was born.
My mindset changed after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. I continue to plan an eventful life for my family. I also try to live in the moment now more than ever.
I never hesitate to go after my dreams. But rather than jumping too far ahead, it’s more important to enjoy the things I’m making the time for now.
I hold onto every opportunity and make as many memories as I can with my loved ones. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance tomorrow.
No one ever expects to be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. No doubt it was a huge blow for me when I got that dreadful call from my doctor.
The diagnostic phase seemed like an eternity. Then there were my treatments: chemotherapy, followed by surgery, then radiation. Just anticipating each step along the way was excruciating. I knew what I had to do and had an extensive timeline to get it all done.
I was in for a rough year, to say the least. But I learned to be patient with myself. Each step would take time. My body needed to heal. Even after I had a full physical recovery and regained range of motion and strength post-mastectomy, my mind still needed time to catch up.
I continue to reflect and attempt to wrap my head around everything I’ve been through and continue to undergo. I’m often in disbelief of everything that I’ve overcome.
With time, I’ve learned to live with my new normal. I have to remind myself to be patient with my body. I’m 29 years old and in full-fledged menopause. My joints and muscles are often stiff. I can’t move the way I used to. But I continue to strive to be where I once was. It will just take time and accommodation. That’s OK.
I was homebound for at least a week as I recovered from each round of chemo. Much of my exposure to the outside world was through the screen on my phone, as I lay on my couch browsing social media.
I soon found people my age on Instagram living with #breastcancer. Instagram seemed to be their outlet. They bared it all, quite literally. It soon became my own safe haven to share and envision what my life would be like.
It gave me hope. I finally found other women who actually understood what I was going through. I felt so much less alone. Each day I could scroll through and find at least one person who could relate to my current struggle, no matter the physical distance between us.
I became more comfortable sharing my own story as I went through each part of my treatment. I relied so much on others when cancer was so new to me. I now needed to be that person to someone else.
I continue to share my experience to anyone willing to listen. I feel it’s my responsibility to teach others. I still receive hormone therapy and immunotherapy, even though I’m done with active treatment. I cope with side effects and have scans to monitor the cancer inside of me.
My reality is that this will never go away. Cancer will forever be a part of me. I’m choosing to take these experiences and do all that I can to educate others about such a prevalent and misunderstood disease.
Be your own advocate. Never stop reading. Never stop asking questions. If something doesn’t settle right with you, do something about it. Do your research.
It’s important to be able to trust your doctor. I decided that my doctor’s decision also didn’t have to be the end-all, be-all.
When I was diagnosed with MBC, I did whatever my oncology team told me to do. I didn’t feel that I was in a position to do anything else. We needed to get going with chemotherapy as soon as possible.
A friend of mine, who was also a survivor, became my voice of reason. She offered advice. She taught me about the new realm I was entering.
Each day we messaged each other with questions or new information. She guided me to inquire about the reasoning behind each step in my plan and to ask for answers to my questions. That way I’d understand if everything I was enduring was in my best interest.
Doing so taught me more about a onetime foreign disease than I ever thought was possible. Cancer was once just a word. It’s become its own web of information spun inside of me.
It’s now second-nature for me to keep up-to-date with research and news in the breast cancer community. I learn about products to try, events going on in my community, and volunteer programs to join. Speaking to other people about my experience and hearing about theirs is tremendously helpful as well.
I’ll never stop learning and teaching others so we can all be the best advocates to find a cure.
Sarah Reinold is a 29-year-old mom of two who’s living with metastatic breast cancer. Sarah was diagnosed with MBC in October 2018, when she was 28 years old. She loves impromptu dance parties, hiking, running, and attempting yoga. She is also a huge Shania Twain fan, enjoys a good bowl of ice cream, and dreams of traveling the world.