Think about the phrase "How are you doing?" Everyday, in every city across the globe, hundreds of people are asking that very question. Mothers ask sons over phone calls, girlfriends ask over a glass of wine, long lost friends connect over coffee, doctors ask patients as they give a pat down.
Sometimes, like during high school reunions, people don't really care about the answer. Instead of listening to the answer, the questioner simply prepares for when the same question comes back her way. But every once in a while this simple question is posed in such a way that makes the heart sing.
I notice a lot when people ask me how I am "doing" because I never quite know how to respond. When I answer the, "How are you doing" with the expected, "Fine, thank you and how are you?" I am almost always lying.
Five years ago, on June 3, 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I was 21 years old. It was two weeks after my college graduation. I had no family history of the disease.
Five years ago, some people started to dread asking me 'the question'. Five years ago, some people I have never met and may never meet started asking how I was doing. And five years ago, for the first time ever, I noticed how wonderful and liberating it can be when someone asks, "how are you doing?" and really, truly wants to know.
As my new blog title implies, life with Stage IV breast cancer requires a pair of Big Girl Pants. If you're going to enter my world, you better put on a pair of your prettiest party pants and buckle them up tight, because my answer to "How are you doing?" is always long winded!
My long winded answers are what prompted this blog. For years, I've been filling people in on my latest adventures in cancer over coffee or dinner, at cocktail parties or in mass emails. I bring people up to speed in 500 words or less. Over five years struggling with recurrences, I am slowly realizing that my life will never be normal enough to sum up over dinner. Instead, life with Stage IV cancer means that every day major news is happening. Every month a new hurdle pops up. Every week a new drug is tried. Every evening we pray.
Sharing my story over dinner, over coffee, at weddings, is unfair for my friends and family and it is a disservice to the huge hurdles that I overcome every single day. I plan to use this blog to share those day to day struggles.
I plan to update this blog everyday, or at least once a week, with reflections on where I've been, updates on where I'm headed, and general thoughts about life and about facing down death.
In an ideal world, people will actually read this and share it as well. I am also giving birth to this blog because I want to raise awareness about living life with breast cancer. Not beating it, not surviving it, not closing that door, but truly, happily, sadly, thoroughly and completely living with it.
I joke sometimes about being scary. I really am not joking.
My story scares people, especially fellow cancer patients. I am the worst case scenario.
I was diagnosed way late. By the time someone sent me for a mammogram five years ago, the cancer had traveled from my breast to my liver. One doctor gave me a 16% chance of celebrating my 30th birthday. Over the past five years, I have had three recurrences and 5 surgeries. I have been on nine different types of drugs. My cancer just won't quit. The doctors can sometimes be quite grim about my "prognosis"
But I am living well. I am living fully. I am happy. I am one of the happiest people I know. I just got married in August (best wedding ever!!) and some days I call my husband in the middle of the day to just thank him for the amazing life that we have made together. I created a song that I sing (way off tune!) while cooking dinner about how much I love my little life. I think these facts can help people, even though my situation might scare you.
It is this happiness that keeps me motivated when life isn't very happy. This day to day happiness makes me a fighter.
So let's kick off this journey by sharing one of my most favorite-est pictures ever. This is me with Stage IV cancer.
Do I look sick to you?
Does it look like I might feel sorry for myself?
Now I'm off to a doctor's appointment and will update everyone shortly! I hope there will be someone reading.