TEN years in stage 4 metastatic breast cancer!

10 years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

WOW… that statement ALONE is noteworthy… TEN YEARS! But even more noteworthy is that initially I was told “we caught it early” and that I was in stage 2. Later, after several scans and tests, I was told I was in stage 4 and the cancer had metasticized to several areas of my body – although, thankfully, not to any organs – and was given months to maybe a few years to live depending upon whether I had chemotherapy and radiation or not.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for stage 4 breast cancer patients is 22 percent. This percentage is considerably lower than at earlier stages. At stage 3, the five-year relative survival rate is 72 percent. At stage 2, it’s over 90 percent.
According to a site I saw on the internet, “There is a small subcategory of people with Stage IV breast cancer (about 2%) who beat the odds and live for years. However, it is difficult to predict who will fall into this group.”

WOW…. TEN YEARS in STAGE FOUR metastatic breast cancer!!! I guess you can consider me a walking, talking MIRACLE!!

For those that might be going through what I have gone through, or have a friend or family member who is going through it… I would like to relay some ideas as to why I feel that I have fallen into that “2%” of diagnosed survivors.

1. The grace of God.
2. Powerful prayers.
3. Great doctors with innovative, up to date treatments
4. Wonderful, loving, supportive family and friends
5. Positive attitude and supreme will to live

1. The grace of God.
First, let me say, I have no “illusions of grandeur” that I am any more special to God than anyone else. Quite the opposite. I certainly do NOT feel deserving of His grace! I see others who have passed on from and are still surviving with breast cancer that were/are, in my opinion, MUCH more deserving of God’s grace than I will ever be. That being said, I truly feel that it is only by the grace of God that I am here typing this today! Almost every night, when I go to bed, I thank God for His grace and for giving me even just one more day to be with my family.
When I was first diagnosed, I was 48 years old. I had been married to my wonderful husband, Tom, for almost 20 years. Our children, Tommy, Stephen and Marianne were 19, 16 and 13 years old respectively. My husband told me I HAD to fight this, that I was the “glue” that held our family together. While I truly love God, and want to be in heaven with him some day, I could not stand the idea of leaving my husband and children! I honestly do not know how anyone could survive this dreadful disease (or any other for that matter) without having some sort of faith in a higher power. I suspect there may be some out there somewhere… but I know that I, personally, would never have survived this long without my faith and belief in God and His grace.

2. Powerful prayers.
I realize this ties in with #1 – grace of God – but I believe in prayer so much, that I feel it needs to be separated and highlighted. I was raised by a very spiritual Mom and Dad and I thank God that they raised me to believe in the power of prayer. From a headache to a fever to breast cancer… God answers prayers! I had friends, family and people all over the US and internationally that said they were praying for me. How could God possibly not hear all those prayers and respond?

3. Great doctors with innovative, up to date treatments
I was lucky enough to be led to go to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, IL where they deal with MANY victims of latter stages of breast cancer. The local oncologist here could count on one hand how many patients she had treated that were in stage 4 of breast cancer. Three of them did not live very long. The other two had not yet made it to 5 years. It only makes sense that, if you can, you go to a place that has a high success rate in treating people in the latter stages of any disease.
One of the many things I like about CTCA is that they incorporate natural supplements into your protocol. Supplements the doctors here at home scoff at, but that TRULY help! I totally believe that God, in his grace, led me to CTCA because of their innovative approach to treatment of cancer. I actually take more supplements than I do prescription medication. And, believe me when I say, I take a lot of prescription meds.

4. Wonderful, loving, supportive family and friends
I know that my husband of 20 years (at that time) and our children were probably scared half to death at the thought of losing me. But they are all so STRONG and supportive of me and my battle with breast cancer! Yes, they broke down and cried – just like I did.. but they were so strong and helpful. When I could not even lift a suitcase to go out of town to CTCA, someone was always there with me to help me. Our daughter, Marianne, probably went with me the most times while I was undergoing chemo and for the first few years.

5. Positive attitude and supreme will to live
I have been told by many people, including doctors, that my positive attitude and sense of humor has played a major role in my survival. From as far back as I can remember, I have always been a jovial person, full of humor, joy and love. I was determined (and still am) that I was NOT going to let having breast cancer take me down.
I have to admit, there are some days that the pain from the tumor that metastisized into my L4/L5 region of my spine is so debilitating I have feelings of wishing I could be out of pain and in heaven. I have a nice little pity party for myself on those days. But in the depths of my painful despair, I think of my family, and I MAKE myself change my attitude. I’m not saying it is easy… its not. I realized very early in my life that it does no good to whine and cry about something bad that has happened to me. My attitude is… it happened… there is no changing what happened, no going back in time and doing things differently….. so pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on. You can either cry your eyes out about it and be down and dark and make everyone you love around you depressed, or you can laugh, learn and live with it.

I know that I don’t make posts on this blog like I really should, but I can only hope that what I have shared here will help SOMEONE in their journey!