Summer has progressed into fall and with it some beautiful weather, even warm at times. Fall is my favourite season and this year is no different. Changeable weather on Southern Vancouver island has been spectacular. It also reminds me of the many times I have been in Nepal at this time of the year. I miss the mountains but have much to look back on, time spent with friends in more leisurely yet challenging ways. I often spent a few days trekking on my own in areas near Kathmandu before our groups would arrive from Canada, the US, New Zealand and the UK and even Hong Kong one year. Although I hiked with a porter and a guide I learned a lot about myself in those times alone. I took a break in 2012 and 2013 when breast cancer first appeared in my life. It did not stop me though and I was back leading two treks to Annapurna Base Camp in 2014. Although my trekking life came to a halt with metastatic breast cancer diagnosed soon after the second Lo Manthang (Mustang) trek in 2017, the learning has not ended.
Today is Dick and my 37th wedding anniversary. I consider that another feat that has not always been easy, nor is it easy now facing the prospect of an earlier death for me than we expected. Anyone who suggests that all of us are going to die someday have not endured metastatic cancer. Covid has affected all of us and has certainly given not just us but the whole world pause to think about life in general. No longer can we nonchalantly go on in our lives when we really do not know what is coming. Whether we acknowledge it or not, indigenous, people of colour and black lives matter in a way that so many of us born to white supremacy have never faced before. We now have to choose to be racist or anti-racist. I watched the premier of our province have to backtrack following a debate this week when he said "I don't see colour." Let's hope that we can all learn more and in doing so show more compassion as we find ways to really break down barriers.
My last blog post spoke about metastatic progression and endurance. Yesterday I read the list of treatments another woman with MBC wrote about~~ surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, physiotherapy, lymphedema therapy and more since 2012, It sounded a lot like my list and clearly so many of us endure countless treatments and the appointments that we must attend. For me, I have also had three hospice stays and one hospitalization in the past couple of years. Back in the"good old days" of breast cancer~~pre MBC, i did have long periods of freedom from the medical system but these past few years there are constant reminders especially with the sometimes almost unbearable neuropathic pain.
When I took that break from chemotherapy but pain continued I had months to think about mortality. I had gone through the MAID application process but quite clearly I was not ready to die, nor am I now. Quitting chemotherapy for 9 months created some space for me but it turned out to be unrealistic once the CT scan and August PET/CT scans showed progressions that were incompatible with my "no more chemo." One tumour is in the chest wall but so close to the surface that it could soon break through. Others could be precursors to lung cancer and one on my iliac crest may or may not be bone involvement but both lung and bone are usual breast cancer metastases. For the last two weeks my voice has been hoarse. I was not sure who to approach but decided to bring it up at chemotherapy on Wednesday. I now have an ultrasound booked for next Friday. I reread my PET/CT results and there was a comment about the isotope uptake for my thyroid. It was high enough to warrant a recommendation for ultrasound and biopsy if "clinically appropriate." There will be a biopsy I was told if the radiologist recommends it following the biopsy.
Strangely my pain has decreased in my arm though not my hand or scapular and shoulder areas. But the change has allowed me to be upright without staggering pain within minutes. I can go for walks again albeit short ones given the weakness that has ensued over the months of sedentary activity. We are all surprised and tentative but I am trying to take it a day at a time. The roller coaster ride of life can change on a dime and the Covid I mentioned above restricts independence that I have found such a burden.
There are many things I am grateful for and know that not all us are so lucky. My oncologist has never given up on me something that others do not always feel. Covid-19 has meant many important programs stopped abruptly. We need to advocate for ourselves and search out alternatives. BCCA province wide has created Zoom groups for meditation and music therapy, metastatic support and others. I listened to a webinar from NS and am signed up for a music/art therapy 4 week course. Phone conversations and messaging sustain me while we wait to see how Covid goes. I have always been a planner and a dreamer and at times those things can bring me to tears whereas at other times they make me aware that life goes on and the birds and flowers and ocean within view can keep me from despair.
Please note that you can choose to "FOLLOW" me. That choice is on the right side of the screen. I also posted a few recent fall BC photos.
Many surfers plus me, Dick, David and Mary Sombrio Beach on our Pacific Coast recently.
A gnarly tree in the Avatar Grove on the unseeded territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation where we hiked in September. It was slow and with much assistance. So beautiful.
Deer grazing across the street from us.