- One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
- There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
- The chance of local recurrence in five years is about 6% for women when the lymph nodes do not contain cancer.
- For those who have cancer in one to three nodes, the chance of local recurrence in five years is about 16%.
- The chance of local recurrence increases to about 26% when cancer is in four or more lymph nodes.
Think of eight women you know. If none of them have had breast cancer, chances are you or one of them eventually will. Scary, huh? I've had breast cancer. My sister-in-law had breast cancer. My mother-in-law had breast cancer. My best friend had breast cancer. My best friend's mother had breast cancer. That's five women in my small little world.
Now, I've mentioned before my KCA September chemo group. We met on an online message board when we all started chemo around the same time. Some were younger then me, some were older. Some had already been down this road before. All of us had one thing in common - a breast cancer diagnosis around the same time. In the almost two years since we all "met", we've migrated to a Facebook group of 48 members.
In the months since we all finished chemo in late 2013/early 2014, one special member of our group already lost her fight. Another recently had a local recurrence in the exact same place as her original tumor (even with a mastectomy). Two more had recurrences in other places. All three of them needed more treatment and/or surgery. And now one more of our special ladies is afraid she's facing the beast again. She has lesions on her liver that her medical oncologist said "doesn't look good". A biopsy will tell for sure. Since waiting is the hardest part, she's hoping to get in for that tomorrow.
So... in a group made up of fewer than fifty breast cancer survivors, one gained her angel wings only a year after completing treatment, three more have been diagnosed with cancer again, and one is hoping for the best but expecting to once again hear those words "you have cancer".
Tell me how not to live in fear? I had Stage III breast cancer with nine lymph nodes affected, and I carry the gene mutation for breast cancer that puts me at greater risk for other cancers. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I worry about every bump and lump, every ache and pain. I feel like my body is a ticking time bomb.
I'm only 42 years old. I have a teenager who needs me to teach him how to drive and to help him with his math homework. I have a daughter who wants to teach me how to do a fishtail braid and who I want to bake brownies with. I have a husband whom I love and I want to grow old with. I have softball games to coach, books to read, friends to spend time with, vacations to take. I have a life to live!
Every day it's a struggle. I have so many physical reminders of all that I have been through. Even beyond the fatigue, the extra pounds and the scars, the emotional toll cancer takes on someone is hard to describe. I would love to walk through the rest of my life as a happy-go-lucky, happy to be alive breast cancer survivor. Unfortunately, the reality is that "surviving" means more than getting through treatments or surgeries. Surviving is the daily struggle of finding a new normal, of taking care of my body the best I can, of constantly pushing back the dark cloud of worry. Surviving is exhausting.
Please say a prayer for all of my friends who are facing the reality of their fears once again. Say a prayer for Karen, who has fought the fight more than once already, as she undergoes a liver biopsy and whatever else is in store for her.
It's hard not to get weary. It's hard to stay strong, to be positive. It really does all come down to faith. Faith in miracles. Faith in God. Faith in yourself, and finding out you really can get through one more day. That one more day might not be easy, but it is definitely a gift.