Hi…my name is Cindy.
Before February 2, 2012, I was a “normal” woman, if such a word could be used to describe any human being. I was a wife and a mother of two children with a career that I loved. I had become accustomed to the juggling act that all women in my situation are faced with. On some days, I juggled successfully and on others, I dropped a ball or two. I felt stress from wanting to be my best in all facets of my life, but unable to do so. I felt pride in my accomplishments both in my private life and at work. I felt exhaustion from having too many irons in the fire. I felt exhilaration when I successfully managed all of those irons.
Before February 2, 2012, I was the ultimate planner. I took great pleasure in planning out years ahead…not because I expected to follow the plan precisely, but because I had always believed that I was the master of my own destiny. I was in charge of my fate and responsible for making opportunities. I never reveled more than a day or so when I achieved a goal. I was immediately on to planning the next milestone. I was never afraid to make life-altering course corrections – whether it be educational redirects, divorce, marriage, children or career changes. By the time I was faced with such decisions, I already knew the right path.
Before February 2, 2012, I was healthy. Never broke a bone, never had a surgery or hospital stay. I never smoked. I drank only a few glasses of wine or cocktails on the average per week. My medical file was thin and boring. I happily checked no to all of the medical history questions when I visited the doctor. The only healthcare I required was preventative or due to occasional bouts of bronchitis or flu. I was a bit heavier than I would have liked but not unmanageably so. I ate fairly well and was active enough to maintain my weight.
Before February 2, 2012, I knew that I would live to grow old and travel with my husband after the kids were grown. I knew I would see my children grow up, finish college, get married, and have my grandchildren. I would retire and finally have time for the many hobbies that I enjoyed but rarely took the time for. I would have time to read. I would ride horses again. I would take care of my parents when they needed it. I would be the best Auntie in the world to my nieces and nephews. I would be the best grandma to my grandchildren.
On February 2, 2012, at aged 40, I was diagnosed with what is called an “infiltrating poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma”, otherwise known as breast cancer. After I heard those words, everything changed.
My cancer was ultimately staged at 4 (metastatic), meaning that treatment was no longer considered curative, but palliative. Palliative treatment is meant to preserve quality of life and manage the disease but not cure it. Immediately after receiving this news, I spent a great deal of time researching my disease and desperately trying to find some information that offered hope. Hope was scarce…so I had to rely on my own. The statistics say that only 22% of people diagnosed with stage 4 cancer survive 5 years or more. I can proudly say that I am one of those 22%, having lived with this diagnosis for over 6 years
When I was first diagnosed, I started a journal on the Caring Bridge web site in order to share information with my family and friends. Writing became so therapeutic for me that I wrote frequently and continued writing after I closed the Caring Bridge site. I decided to publish my writing in a blog in order to share my story, with the hope that I can inform and possibly even inspire. I also included some of the comments from my family and friends during that period. Their love, support and humor were so important to me during those days that it did not feel right to exclude them.
Though every person with this disease has their own story, I know from experience that reading any message of hope when struggling with the reality of and incurable disease can help provide strength to get you through the worst days. I also know from experience that hearing someone else’s story and thoughts who really gets it, has been there and truly understands how you feel, can help you feel less lonely and isolated. I hope that my story does this for you.