Last February when it was discovered I had a tumor on the base of my brain, and then 2 months later another one on my frontal lobe, I was forced to face the inevitable that I was going to die from cancer. I always knew I would, but when it was only in the lymph nodes I could fool myself that it would just stay there and I could live another 2 years. All that changed when it spread to my brain. Meeting with my oncologist cemented the fact that there was not much she could do. Because my cancer was HER2+, it was very aggressive and spread easily. There are only a handful of targeted therapies made to suppress the HER2 receptor and I had been on all of them. My only option was to try yet another chemotherapy but they were harsh and none of them would cross the blood brain barrier. After 5 years of being on some type of chemo or targeted therapy, of losing my hair twice, living with constant bone pain, fatigue, and nausea I had had my fill of drugs. My body was breaking down from all of the poisons. That’s really what they are you know, poisons that kill the cancer but everything healthy too. My other option was palliative care which means they keep you comfortable and deal with your symptoms as they come up. This was the way I chose to go.
I haven’t been on chemo since 12/14 and they removed the second brain tumor in May. I haven’t seen a doctor since then. I wanted and needed a break. I wanted to feel like myself again and give my body time to purge the drugs and heal itself. 2 months ago, I began to have serious pain in my breast with the implant and my shoulder blade. After some trips to the ER, it was discovered my implant had ruptured and that there was another tumor in my clavicle. I decided to switch my care from Philly to a group closer to home. I have surgery on Monday to remove the implant and I see the new oncologist on 1/6.
I don’t feel good anymore. I am exhausted all the time. Walking up the stairs or even to the bathroom, leaves me short of breath. The pain in my back and shoulder never ceases. The pain killers aren’t helping much and I can’t eat or sleep. I find myself staring at my three girls. I’m trying to memorize every line on their face so I can take it with me. I’ve left letters for them, filled with just a fraction of the things I need to tell them. How do you say goodbye to the best gifts you ever received. My 21 yr old Kait and my 18 ye old Erin are moving on with their lives and I know they will be ok. It’s my 14 year old Emma that I worry about. She is such a sweet, loving young woman and we have an incredibly strong bond. She is the one who tells me I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. She often says she ” doesn’t know why she loves me so much, she just does’. I feel like its unfair that I had the least time with her.
I don’t want to have cancer anymore. I want to wake up and have my life back again. I want my dreams to be realities. I want to finish my book and I want to go to Europe. There are too many things I have left to do. I want to look in the mirror and see two healthy breasts, not a deformed, hard form with scars everywhere. I want my husband to look at me like he used to. I don’t want to hear Emma cry “I can’t lose you mom”. I have begged God to heal me. I guess he’s busy this time of year.
My family has lost so much in the past 5 years. My only sister was murdered by her husband on the 1 year anniversary of my mastectomy. In that moment my life was changed. I had to tell my parents, and my two nephews who were now orphans. They went to school that morning and never returned to their home or school again. We took them in. Their father’s mother stole everything from them to pay for her son’s defense. We had to wait 3 years for the trial, and in February of 2014 he was finally sentenced to 30 years with no parole. During this time my youngest nephew became seriously mentally ill. He had always had some minor problems, but they became dangerous once he lived with us. After months of searching for answers and looking for help, he finally had a breakdown and was committed for observation for a week at a clinic. We were told he could no longer live with young girls around and he needed to be the only child in a house. After two years of living everyday in fear and anxiety, my nephew went to live with his father’s uncle in Virginia. Things returned to normal. My older nephew, Matt stayed with us and is now away at college and happy. My cancer returned three times from when Kim died, until her youngest son moved away. Stress caused it to come back, but I still had faith I would win this battle.
So now I am facing the end of my life. It will be sometime in the next 6-9 months most likely. This will be my last Christmas with my family. There will be a lot of lasts I will have to deal with. There will also still be firsts. My daughter Erin’s first prom, and God willing her high school graduation. I know I have been blessed, and I truly am thankful for each day I have been gifted to live in this world. I just wish I didn’t have to make arrangements for the end.