What You Don’t Know About Stage 4 Breast Cancer

by Jan Owen James

Sisters, you know how steep your learning curve has been since you were diagnosed? Well, I hate to tell you this, but you still don’t know much. And I say that with all the love I can send you.

I remember about three years ago when I was getting one of my first chemo rounds, and I cheerfully said to the gal next to me (who also had bc), “So how many more rounds do you have?”

I meant well. But I was stupid. Uninformed. The girl next to me was Tammy. She patiently and gently explained to me that because the cancer had spread to other parts of her body, she’d be on chemo forever. FOR. EVER.

I was embarrassed. Shocked. Incredulous. I felt stupid. Because I was.

I get it a little more now. I don’t live it. But I understand what mets is now. I know that when I hear someone has “metastatic” or “chronic” breast cancer, that’s a fancy way of saying that they’re stage 4. And the women I know with that diagnosis are, by far, the most inspiring bunch of warriors on this earth.

If you want to understand a tiny bit about how someone with stage 4 breast cancer feels, read and FEEL each word that my precious friend, Rachel Leniski Dubree,¬†wrote today. She’s 36. She’s got a husband, four kids, and two dogs. She’s a mom. A wife. A friend. A sister. A daughter. A cousin. An artist. A brilliant business woman. A prayer warrior. And a million other things.

Oh, and she happens to have breast cancer. xoxox

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by Rachel Leniski Dubree

If I hear, “how much longer do you have to have chemo?” One more time!!!!!!!!!!! Listen friends. I love you all to pieces. My reality is this….. I will have to have chemo in some form…..FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Yes, I am sick of it. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it is stupid. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I feel like a lab rat. Yes, I get tired of being a patient. Yes, I probably glow in the dark by now. Yes, I am sick of losing my hair. Yes, I know I have a nice round head. Yes, I sometimes have to pull over to puke in a parking lot. Yes, I am worried about my kids and Jon. Yes, my Drs are doing everything they can. Yes, I know your aunt’s brother’s next door neighbor’s groomer from their old house had a babysitter that had breast cancer and died. Yes, it hurts even though someone told you it couldn’t. Yes, it could be worse. Yes, I am sick of my friends dying. Yes, I know about cannabis. Yes, I heard that diet soda makes you grow a third, cancerous eyeball. Yes, I know that it’s 90 degrees and I’m still wearing a stocking hat: I’m cold. I might be sweating bullets 5 minutes from now and need the hat again 2 minutes later. Yes, I am resting. Yes, I’m sure that I should go to the marching band competition, softball practice, flag football game, Lego robotics, field trip, coffee date or church.

You know what else I know? I am more than this stupid disease! I am still an important part of this family that includes Jon, Maddie, Savanah, Josiah, Abilina, Pepper and Daisy. I am part of an extended family and an awesome group of friends that simply knows me as “Rachel, mom, aunt, sister, friend…..whatever”. I am still a creative, passionate individual. I am still a busy mom. I am still the comedian of the bunch. I am still the friend that shows up in a striped dress and argyle leggings because it feels right. I still worry when I know someone I love is hurting. I still celebrate the victories of my children and help them through the stuff that resulted in a less than favorable outcome. I still laugh when someone farts. I still have a very anal approach to sorting laundry. I still pray, all day every day, ,and rarely do those prayers include “a cure” because God already has that handled.

This is not anger, it is passionate education. To me, stage four is not a death sentence, but a life sentence. It’s a chance to live with purpose as my true self. It’s an opportunity to breathe life into everyone I come in contact with. It’s a challenge to learn and grow in HUGE ways because I NEVER want to stop being better tomorrow than I am today. It means learning about someone’s soul by being fully immersed in their every word. It means reading their story as they speak and treasuring their journey.

We are all terminal, friends. We are all terminal.

Now, I will nap. Chemo was a bitch today.