There are many circumstances one hopes never to experience. No one wants to get sick. We all subconsciously fear being the the next person who learns they will have to face the ultimate fight. What is it like to face something as terrifying as cancer? It’s very scary.
I had Stage 2 breast cancer for one month. Although that was scary enough, when I went from Stage 2 to “terminal” I had to process my situation quickly and differently than others.
Learning to Keep Going
Are those of us with metastatic breast cancer inspiring because we get up each morning staring death in the face but finding ways to cherish a life that we now view as too short? Or because we continue to fight when life throws punch after punch?
Or are we inspiring because we smile though Pink October knowing it’s a month of pink propaganda in which the money raised goes not toward researching a cure for metastatic breast cancer but toward awareness or who knows what?
I threw all these uncomfortable questions out there because none of us have the answers. My metastatic sisters smile and try to spread awareness that breast cancer goes far beyond Stage 1, 2 or Stage 3, all the while being painfully aware of the cancer spreading in our bodies. Every day I’m reminded that I have cancer in my bones and my liver.
A Pink Reminder
Pink October brings these issues to the forefront. People want to discuss mammograms with me often, because when you think breast cancer, you think mammograms. It’s an easy topic. But I think that subconsciously everyone wonders how I live with MBC. Well, short answer — it sucks. Here are some longer answers.
I am obsessed about my celebration of life party. I’m so obsessed by it, don’t be surprised if I have it while I’m alive. (Why should I miss my own celebration of life?) There are many ways of processing death, I have learned, and for me it varies day by day. Most days I keep busy, focused on how I spend my remaining time, but there are mornings that my impending death becomes all too real.
Holidays like Christmas are filled with moments I wish I could freeze and live in for hours. Like when I walk down the stairs and see my Christmas tree with all its special ornaments and dissolve into tears. You can’t help but envision that Christmas when you’re not there and how much that will suck for everyone. Or the everyday moments when you look around at your pups and wonder if they will understand when you don’t come home. Or those times when you know no one will be able to make the comment no one on the room wants to make, and someone will say “Gee, I wish Larissa was here.”
What Really Matters
When you face death you start to think about who will care when you’re gone and who won’t. You think about how dying will feel… will it be long and painful, or short and sweet? Will I have enough time to say goodbye to those I love? And if not, have I left enough behind for them to remember me by? Some mornings I think “I’m tired,” or “This damn cancer is going to be the death of me,” and then I have to laugh. Because, duh.
Pink October should be about more than spending money on pink things that won’t benefit metastatic breast cancer research or research in general. The month should be used to help educate people about why research and finding a cure is so important. For instance, it’s important to me because, for once, I would like to stop thinking about how my MBC is going to kill me, or how everyone around me will be affected when it does. Pink October should be a time to show the world that breast cancer is still a very deadly disease and, unless we devote funds raised toward finding a cure, my worries about dying will become my reality.
Stage 4 needs more!
We need research.
We need time.
We need people to be aware.
Larissa blogs about her life, living with Stage IV breast cancer at www.metastaticallyspeaking.com.
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