Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Liz W. on December 19, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage IV Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - Breast
Date of Diagnosis:
May 18, 2001
Employment Status:
Type and Description of Treatments:
In 2001 the surgeon said I was a good candidate for a lumpectomy and the removal of my nipple. I immediately said, take them both off ASAP. Went through full chemo followed by radiation. March 2005, cancer was found in a rib and I had daily radiation for 5 weeks. July 2007 cancer has gone to numerous bones, and a few spots in liver. Took full chemo again every Friday from July 07 to March 2008. Stayed in remission for 8 months. As of 12/5/2008, CA 27.29 rose to 529 and instead of my Oncologist to wait for test, I started full chemo. and will continue for 3 months. Don't have any scan results yet but looking at my blood test numbers, I think it will show spots in liver again and new bone mets in my thigh bones and calf bones. I could list the actual "cocktail mixture" of chemo but please don't ask me to. The doctor tells me what to do, and I don't pay much attention to the names of chemo. Initially when I get the actual names, I will look over the side effects in case I need to question a symptom. Other than that, I trust my doctor and his advice. I lived in Fl. for 2 years during remission and went to a quack of a doctor at the Moffit Center. When he let my CA 27.29 rise to over 800+ with no concern, I told my husband that I was moving back to NC immediately. What a blessing my Oncologist here is.
How do you feel today?

AWESOME!!! I am so blessed it's unbelievable. Since my first chemo was this past Friday, I've had some diarrhea and chemo brain but other than that, life is good. I'm a morning person so I get up around 6 a.m. and get my chores done, do computer work, etc. I've been separated since 04/07 and I'm raising my 8 1/2 yr. old daughter alone. Her Father lives in Fla. and is a great Dad. Once I get my chores done, I allow myself 2-3 hours of reading,quiet time before she gets home from school. I don't always sleep but if I need to, I do! By the time she gets home from school, I'm showered and ready to greet her. We have homework, dinner, do whatever we want and go to bed early.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

My faith, attitude and just about everything. I've always been a positive person, easy to laugh and have a great love for all people. My faith has grown so strong it's unbelievable. My doctors say it's terminal but God tells me differently. I'm not a holy roller but am a strong believer in God. I've been through some rough times in my life and cancer is the least of my worries! My bond with family and friends is stronger. Things that I thought were so important are not important at all to me anymore. I take every day as a blessing. I have a wonderful loving family and a strong support group of friends that amaze me everyday with their kindness.

I miss hanging out with girlfriends at the monthly dinner we use to have. I miss going out dancing and ontaking a girls beach trip we use to have each summer. I can't drink beer and hang with the best like I use to.

We still try to get together often but with everyone getting married, children and work. We get there early and leave early....Just part of growing up I guess. At least we are in touch with each other regularly.

What is going well for you right now?

Life! To still be alive and active after 7 years of this nasty disease is amazing to me.

My daughter is thriving in school. She understands my disease as best as an 8 yeard old can. I'm very open with her and try to include her in my treatment. She does not however, know my diagnosis is terminal.

Since metastatic cancer automatically qualifies you for disability, I decided to go out of work in June 2007. Although I miss working terribly, this free time allows me to spend quality time with my daughter and family and gives me time to rest and heal my body as best I can. That in itself is priceless.

What is not going well for you right now?

Not knowing what the scans will show but I really don't think about it much. I try not to stress over things I cannot change.

People who always ask, "Are you sure you're telling us everything." Like I'm going to die next week but I forgot to tell them!!!

Unfortunately, I still smoke cigarettes and have not been able to stop. I continue to pray for the craving to be taken away and am now considering hypnosis. Anyone tried it?

The holidays approaching bother me a little. This will be the first Christmas my daughter has had without her Dad. The seperation was my decision so I feel kind of guilty for her being away from him although he visits regularly. She has not expressed concern but I'm still trying to make this an extra special Christmas for her.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Trying to convince my family that I'm not dying just because the cancer has returned. I'm done trying to educate them on my disease. I've encourage them to read books, websites, etc. Also, having to think about and make arrangements in writting for my daughter should something ever happen.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

I don't seem let things bother me anymore. When the Oncologist says the cancer is back my friend who sells breast cancer drugs is always with me. She knows the terminology the doctor uses and is familiar with his recommended treatment. I cry, have a pity party,and within a day I'm positive again. I call her and she explains everything in "my terms" to me and I go from there.

I always look to God for support. I read alot of positive thinking books; some christian, some not. I like to watch Joel Olsteen when I remember to and I pull out and play a favorite Christian CD from the group Psalms 101. That's always worked for me.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

The goals I set earlier in my life I realized, were not important to anyone but me.

I realized early on with cancer that working my can off to keep a nice home and material things were not as important to me as I thought. It's more important to help others and make memories with my child, family and friends!! Although I was told I could go on disability in 2005, I chose to wait until 2007. I don't know what I was trying to prove by waiting.

My goal now is to not sit around and let my daughter see the negative side of cancer. My goal is to show her that just because we've been placed in a valley, does'nt mean that we can't work together to see the mountain at the end of the road. We do alot together and for other people as well. From here on out is a life lesson for her and God made me the assistant principal; he's the real person in charge.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

On disability since 2007, stay at home Mom now. Try to stay active in whatever way I can. I'm a classroom Mom for my daughters class, I read alot, like to cook and do crafts. I was scared to stay home at first but I'm a cleaning fanatic so there is always something to clean. I can always find something to cook for us or friends.

Sometimes my job for the day might be to lay on the couch and watch talk shows or do whatever I want. And you know what, THAT'S OK!

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

Making the decision to go on disability. Chemo brain is frustating even being a stay at home Mom.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

At home, I refuse to let cancer control me or my thoughts!

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

Educate yourself, listen to your body and always take someone to appts. with you. Believe me, it's easy to tune the doctor out after a few minutes so having someone there to listen attentively is priceless. Take lots of notes.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Since the beginning, 2007, I've had mild symptoms compared to others. I was originally given prescription after presciption in case of this or that happens I would be prepared. The majority of them did not have to be filled and the ones I did fill were thrown out half full due to the experation dates.

Now with the bone pain, I've had to take the vicodin on occasion. I live in NC so with the cold weather approaching the bone pain got pretty bad until last Friday when I had my "first" new round of chemo. Since that (1) chemo treatment alone, I have not had one bit of pain.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

Have to explain this first in order to answer. My daughter was born in 2000. At my 6 week check-up, my GYN found a small lump on the left breast and said, "Oh don't worry it's probably just a clogged duct." Yes, I was raised along with everyone else to trust your doctors who by the way, was considered the best in town. year later, it's diagnosed as Stage IV breast cancer.

I would say, "Liz,you have the right as a patient to demand a biopsy so demand one now and if he gives you any slack, knock him out."

You know the old saying, "If I knew then what I know now."