Tag Archives: living with cancer

Gwendie Rants and Raves: 5 Years of Living with Metastatic Cancer


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

My Husk


Sometimes I feel like my husk, my body, is getting ready to shed, leaving only “me”—my core, my soul, my essence—behind. And where will I be then? Or maybe the question should be, what happens to the core “me”? Some would say heaven or hell. Others would say the essence returns to the universe in some other form. Others say that “I” will be born again, perhaps as some lower being, perhaps as a more enlightened being. Some might believe that, after death on this planet, the soul returns to somewhere in space where it originated. All those ideas are attractive to me in some ways, but not completely satisfactory. I have a very hard time “believing” in anything that takes place after I’m gone from this earth. Even though I take on faith that electricity makes the light bulb glow, and I can’t see electricity. But then, almost everyone agrees (has been taught) about electricity. But not everyone agrees about what happens after the body, the husk, has been shucked.

My body, the body I’ve never been all that fond of, has proved to be much more resilient than I every imagined it could be. It has survived, although with considerable wear and tear, numerous and considerable assaults—from chemotherapy and radiation and immune disease and countless episodic drugs for infections and “conditions” like gastrointestinal upsets of various kinds. I should be more appreciative of this body, this husk that protects the real me, as best it can. There’s only so much an old husk (I am 70, after all) can do to beat off the many threats to its integrity. There comes a time when rejuvenation, or return to the original state, is no longer possible. That’s where my body is now. And I find myself (the real me) frustrated with this. I miss the good old days when I could come down with something and then get over it. There’s no getting over it anymore. As one of my friends says, now it’s just all patch, patch, patch. Making do with the “new normal”, which changes frequently as my body deals, successfully or not so much, with new challenges—new drugs, new problems in the body, new attitudes in the “real me.”

Lately, I’ve noticed that the general culture has picked up on the insight that positivity is a good thing. And that “being present” can relieve stress. So we have lots of platitudes posted on websites and sent in emails and embroidered on pillows and printed on greeting cards, and in fact, just about everywhere. Be here now. Smile, God loves you. Love is the answer. But I’m still stuck on shit happens! And that’s how I view the wearing down of my body, my husk. It’s just one of those things. Shit happens. And as to what will happen to me, my core, my essence when my body, my husk fails totally, well, it’s always good to have a little mystery in your life.

Amazing Women over 50: Gwendie’s Struggle with Cancer


Gwendie, who writes occasionally for this blog, has been struggling with cancer for the past four years.  She just suffered another setback, as she describes first in an email she sent and then in a blog entry–but, amazing woman that she is, she is still managing to keep her incredible, positive outlook on things.  I think Gwendie should be a role model for all of us in how to meet life’s challenges head-on and never lose hope.  As my friend Barb said, Gwendie is “living with cancer, not dying from it.”  Jane

Gwendie’s email: Well, guys and gals, it had been a relatively quiet several months here in Gwendieland until about 3 weeks ago when I suddenly “lost” my voice and developed a dry cough.  After considering (and eliminating) the various possible causes (virus, allergies, bacterial infection), a CT scan confirmed that I have more and larger tumors in my chest and neck.  So the assumption is that the loss of voice is related to something pressing on my larynx or perhaps a nerve that innervates the voice box.

Anyhow, of course that means a change in treatment.  So, Monday I’ll be starting a batch of new (to me) drugs.  For those of you who have seen me with short frizzy white hair, forget that look.  It’ll be gone soon.  Hopefully the replacement, should we ever get to that, will not have the frizzy component.  And if you call me, I can at the moment speak only in a croaky whisper.  Also, I may be heading off to Duke Medical Center for a consult there.  Sigh.  But at four plus years and counting (since diagnosis), I can’t complain.  Well, I could complain, but I won’t.


I’m shifting gears again.

I’ve been in “drive” for a number of months, cruising along with the same meds, the same side effects, the same tumor markers, for long enough now that it—the condition—was beginning to feel “normal” (to paraphrase Prince Charles—whatever “normal” is).  Anyhow, the bizarre night about 3 weeks ago when I kept waking up with a sharp cough (and now realize I was probably trying to catch my breath) was the beginning of the shift in the gears—a slide toward reverse, which I hope will somehow come to a stop and then shift again, probably at the beginning, into first gear—slow and with lots of effort, but hopefully, quickly move into second and third and even fourth or overdrive—although I’d be more than happy with third gear!

Just not this reverse, please.

Not only do I not like the physical symptoms, but it scares me.  I’m not a big fan of backing up.  Going forward has always felt a lot better to me.  Oh, my.  This analogy is bringing on a cough.  A bad sign that I’ve slipped out of neutral again into reverse. Damn these gears, shifting without any input from me.  Well, I’m ready to take control again.

Bring on the new chemo and let’s shift back into first gear.

The Other Side: My Journey With Cancer

Kippy Bracke, lives in  Minnesota, where she was born and has family.  She has a love of travel, something which was developed in her at an early age as an army brat.  She recently left corporate America and has a part time job as a Tour Director with a travel agency. 

 It came as a surprise; it usually does.  I am a Tour Director, and I was scheduled to take a group to California when I started experiencing discomfort—which I thought was indigestion.  My mother, a retired nurse, suggested that I see a doctor before I leave and follow up with further treatment, if necessary, when I come home. No problem getting in to see the doctor on Thursday afternoon.  He started with the usual questions and poking and prodding.  He finished all of this with the suggestion that I get a Cat Scan.  And so it began……

 The doctor called me at home that night (yes, you read that correctly, at night and at home) – results of the Cat Scan indicated a large mass on my ovary;  he recommended that I cancel my trip and come in the next morning for additional consultation with an oncology gynecologist.  I saw the oncologist the next day, and a whirlwind of appointments, surgery and acute anxiety started in rapid succession.

 I was in a state of shock.  Cancer.  It brings all kinds of terrible thoughts.  It can be a death sentence.   How could this happen?  I am in good physical shape; I have watched my diet; I exercise; I don’t smoke.  Why was this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?  I cried.  Self pity had set in. Friends and family surrounded me with love and support.  If I have learned one thing from this ordeal, it is that the only things that really matter in this world are faith, family and friends.  As I struggled to understand and deal with all that was happening, it was the conversations and tears  that we shared that kept me going.

My surgery occurred within a week of the diagnosis.  I had what I describe as a hysterectomy on steroids – all things that are removed during a normal hysterectomy plus a few other organs due to the cancer.   After surgery, the oncologist said I had Stage 2 cancer and that the cancer appeared to be contained within the tumor.   I was not completely awake and out of the anesthesia, but this registered with me –- I remember smiling (don’t know if I actually did, but it felt like I did)  My husband and parents were at my bedside;  we were all relieved that the cancer had not spread. Continue reading The Other Side: My Journey With Cancer