Since my rediagnosis back in August, I have had this uncanny ability to rout out all of the stories about women who are around my age who are passing away from stage IV breast cancer. I normally try to dig a bit, google their names to find out what kind of cancer it was (hormone positive? triple negative?), when they got diagnosed, what kind of treatment they underwent…Then I do the math and see, based on their timeline, how much time I have left.
Helpful. I know.
One of the most difficult parts of stage IV breast cancer is that there is so much they do not know. Nobody knows if your treatment will work. Nobody really knows how much time you have. They could give you a ballpark but many people have been told 6 months and have gone on to live for over 18 years. And the opposite is true. Nobody can tell you where the cancer will hit next. Or, in my case, if the chronic cough I have is really related to the fluid around my lungs or something else. The list of unknowns goes on.
It would be so nice to get some absolutes in a way. But even the absolutes they have via scientific data are not so absolute. Because everybody is different. And while a study can give you the general sense of efficacy for a drug, or its side effects, nobody knows how YOUR body will fare on that drug.
It turns out this useless search for absolutes is really my search for comfort in something otherwise so uncomfortable. If I know the parameters or what to expect, I can exhale. But if I really knew how much time I had left or where and when the cancer would spread next, would that truly allow me to breathe freely?
So I’ve starting seeking comfort in others ways. I’ve been connecting with people who are going through similar things. I find that while their exact health journey may be different than mine, the feelings we share are generally the same. Or the side effects they are experiencing may be the ones I have, and how nice it is to be able to bitch about premature menopause with someone who gets it.
I’m also looking to give up trying to forecast my own timeline. Being in the present is the only real comfort there is. Because, ultimately, all I really have is now, same as anyone, healthy or not.