"Women have not been made aware of metastatic breast cancer."
I have metastatic breast cancer to my bones, stage IV. I’ve had it now for almost five years, which is good. [However,] the cancer has begun to grow again. If it leaves my bones it can spread to my liver, my lungs, or my brain, etc.
Since finding this growth recently, I’ve had two PET scans which show where the cancer is, blood tests, and changes in my treatment plan.
One of these changes is to take a medication that may stop the cancer growth for awhile. My doctor has talked to me about it, letting me know there are some potentially wicked side effects. She told me that the medication had to be certified by insurance before I could start it. So we did that. We got a call that we had been approved.
We will have to pay $56 per month for the pills. That may not sound like much money to some, but my husband and I are retired, in our early 70’s and on Medicare. Fortunately, my husband also has insurance from the Navy and also state insurance from were he worked.
I asked them what does a month of pills really cost if I didn’t have insurance. The answer: $10,000.00.
This is a point in treatment many people with cancer face: they stop getting the treatment.
As an aside: I’ve had a mammogram yearly since I was 35. That is how [the cancer] was spotted in 1998; early detection, a tiny, teeny mote of cancer, a mere pin point. I had a lumpectomy and nineteen lymph nodes removed. All treating doctors told me that I had a 99% chance of recovery.
In fact, research now shows that it’s the small stuff you have to worry about. As an older patient, I’m lucky because it now appears that younger women who have early breast cancer are more likely to have their cancer metastasize; some dying while their children are [still] young. My heart goes out to them.
[A lot of] Women have not been made aware of metastatic breast cancer. My humble opinion is the “Pink Ribbon” campaign to make women aware of breast cancer and the annual mammograms has reached its goal and their funding and donations should be turned over to MBC for research.
My next aside is how I dealt with this disease when diagnosed. Well, I cried, sobbed and was angry. I had hoped to do some traveling in retirement. I travel in a wheelchair now. I go out for doctor appointments, to get my hair cut and colored, and perhaps get a pedicure (a treat for me). I’ve taken down the dark curtains in the bedroom because I’m usually in bed all day. My husband set up our birdbath and feeders in front of the bedroom windows so I can watch them (my favorite thing I do).
Hope is what has gotten me this far. I’m a Secular Unitarian Humanist. I knew I had to be hopeful. There is a portion of a poem by Emily Dickinson that helps me really understand it. I have it engraved on a ring and visualize it often.
“Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all.”