As a young woman I mostly remember feeling too fat, too rubinesque, too tall, too feminine… I was an independent and carefree spirit who didn’t need anyone to be happy on this planet and looking so striking made me nervous.
Looking back at the pictures of my youth, I see a stunning and beautiful smiling face looking at the camera, always laughing and having a good time.
Now that I’m older I feel more vain and aware of my looks, as if what is left of my “beauty” is fading fast.
I cried and cried because here I am, feeling vain about my youthful beauty that I never appreciated, while the women and men who have lost their hair and their carefree existence thanks to cancer, have nothing to look forward too.
And then I cried some more because I’ve recently lost my dear Aunt Ellie to cancer, and Frannie, and Melinda’s mom…and I just have to accept that I need to fall apart once in a while. I like to cry, and have been finding it hard to let go lately.
So I’m drying my eyes and I’m feeling more fragile and more human and more thankful for this gift called life.
Because that is exactly what it is – a present every single day.
Thank You to those at the Mimi Foundation for doing this project.
October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, as if I needed a special month to remind me of breast cancer. It was more than five years ago in 2007 that I discovered (and it was soon verified) that I have breast cancer. And not just any old kind, no-oooooo, I’m in the 5% of breast cancer diagnoses which are metastatic from the get-go. Now, at 5 years “out”, I’m in the 20% of metastatic breast cancer patients who are still among the living. So that’s a good thing, right? Well, yes, but with some caveats. It isn’t easy living with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
But first I have a little rant I want to share with you. Forty thousand women (and 400 men) die each year from breast cancer. And they all had metastatic breast cancer, because you don’t die from earlier stages of BC. You die when it spreads to your brain (a favorite place for my kind of cancer) or your lungs or liver or bones (which is where my cancer had spread to when I was diagnosed) or some other less common site.
SO, to get to my rant, if we want to prevent women from DYING of breast cancer, then we need to find a CURE or, barring that, GOOD ways to treat it as a chronic condition so that we can live comfortably. That has happened for a lot of people who have HIV/AIDS if they take their drug “cocktail” faithfully (and have access to it). And they got that cocktail because loads of money and many researchers spent gobs of hours looking for a way to treat that dreadful disease. Continue reading Gwendie Rants and Raves: 5 Years of Living with Metastatic Cancer→
Gwendie is well into her 7th or 8thlife, this one in Asheville, NC as a late-to-the-pen writer. In past lives she has been a daughter, a wife, a mother, a Professional Woman. Now she is exploring the vast universes of past and present into which she delves for stories.
I’m an old grandmother. Well, I’m not so very old, just 68 years young, as my cancer doctor says, but old to be just now having a grandchild. Actually that’s not even quite true. I have three step-grandchildren from a previous marriage, but I’ve seldom seen them, and they don’t really consider me their grandmother.
But this one, this precious little angel girl who was born last Thanksgiving Day to my son Jonathan and his beloved Irena (no, they’re not married—does anyone do that anymore?), is one of the great gifts of my life.
You see, three short years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer (the incurable kind). At that time, my son was adrift in life—a college graduate with no permanent job, no “significant other,” no idea what he should do with his life. He lived with me for the first year after the diagnosis, being there for me during the mastectomy and the first harsh chemo. But as I grew stronger, so did he, and he left to find his way in life, several states away. I was glad for him. Even gladder when he found a job, an apartment, and some months later, a ladyfriend. But when they got pregnant and were thrilled at the prospect of a baby, I was more than glad for them. And then, when adorable Daisy was born, I was so happy for them and so grateful for me.
Grateful because I’ve been given this time, even with cancer, or maybe especially with cancer, to see my own progeny grow and mature and begin to experience the wondrous gifts of life—love of a spouse or partner and love of a child. And such a child—the most beautiful, sweet precious little creature on earth—something most grandmothers say, but in my case, it’s true. (Smile.)
Although I would love to be here to see little Daisy birth her own little daughter, my age and my health give me next-to-no chance of that. But for me, the very fact that she exists, that she’s so loved by her parents and her grandparents and the rest of her family, gives me great satisfaction and a belief that “my work here is done.” The continuation of the species, of MY family, of my genes, has been accomplished. It seems to tidy up the package of my life nicely.
As it does for mothers and grandmothers everywhere, my heart melts when I see Daisy, whether in person or in photos, or on Skype video, smiling and bubbling and looking right at me. At the same time, my spine stiffens and my resolve hardens to continue to contest this chronic cancer as long as I can. For Daisy, but mostly for me. It’s the Grandmother Treatment for cancer. And so far, it’s working.