When I started down the breast cancer road, I began a rather unhealthy relationship with statistics. Over and over I googled and searched the breast cancer websites, including the research related ones. What were the survival rates for Stage II cancer? For triple negative? In 5 years, and in 10? Then when my cancer came back, it all got very, very scary. What was my stage? What were the survival rates for Stage IV triple negative breast cancer? OMG, I’m gonna die – that was my response when I started seeing, just about everywhere, that the 5 year survival rate for Stage IV breast cancer was 20%. That’s one woman out of five.
I knew that I was doing everything possible to fight the cancer. Although it hadn’t actually metastasized to distant points or organs, we went with a treatment plan that assumed that it was spread through my body and just wouldn’t be seen until the tumors had reached a detectable size. The years of high surveillance with PET scans and brain MRI’s made me feel as if I were still in the 80% bucket. My glass seemed pretty damn empty.
But recently, I’ve begun to see my glass as full. I am one of the survivors. I am one of the 20%. I am still alive. I mightn’t be the same person I was pre-cancer, but by God I’m still here.
But, and this is a big one, a glass is filled with two things: fluid and air. When I was recently talking about this transformation in my thinking during a breakout session at a survival event, I was asked if there were any downside to my new way of looking at my cancer. Without a second thought, I replied, “Yes, I know those other 4 women.” I remember and honor Alaina, Angela, Beverly, and Carol, all from my online support group, all of whom lost their fight with triple negative breast cancer.
I’m glad to be here. This transformation in my thinking is another facet of my guiding principle – get busy living or get busy dying. Oh, and to stay hydrated!