I am a 45 year old woman whose initial breast cancer returned as metastatic in August of 2015. Initially, instead of talking about this with people in my life, I decided to write about it anonymously.
The first time I went through breast cancer and treatment in 2011, few people knew (despite my lovely bald head). I liked not identifying with the disease. Not having people look at me with pity or sorrow. I liked going through treatment and not having people ever ask me how I was feeling as though I were more fragile than they are. We are all fragile…
Two and a half years into stage iv treatment, I chose to become public about my diagnosis with family and friends. Holding on to the secret of what I was going through became more difficult than having to field potentially awkward reactions. Because I have navigated this for some time, I know what is helpful to me and what isn’t. Below is how I came out to family and friends on Facebook, with an emphasis on guiding people through a precarious situation.
**PLEASE READ ALL THE WAY TO THE END BEFORE RESPONDING**
Most of you don’t know that I have been dealing with breast cancer since 2011 and have been metastatic (stage iv) since 2015. I have chosen to navigate this journey privately, with a handful of supportive friends and family. It was important to me to not be seen as a “patient” or as cancer. These are terms I hope would never define me.
I decided to only “come out” with what was going on if I could do so in an empowering way. That said, next week I am heading from Los Angeles, where I live, to New York for fashion week. I will be walking in a runway show alongside a group of other amazing women for AnaOno and Dana Kasse Donofree, a designer who creates lingerie specifically for people whose bodies have been affected by breast cancer. It’s a way for all of us to take a bite out of life, and say that even though cancer takes away so much, it never takes away our true beauty or the essence of who we are.
I’m sure at this point the elephant in the room is prognosis. Currently I am treating this disease as chronic until it becomes terminal. I am happy to talk to anyone privately about my journey or anything else. But in short, I have “bone only” disease, which is less fatal than having cancer in organs. I have undergone extensive treatment and surgeries, and disease that had spread to my liver and brain are undetectable for the moment. Doctors can’t say how long I have – the same as for anyone really. I could have a year, I could have 20. It’s probably somewhere in between.
Cancer can be uncomfortable to talk about and it can also be uncomfortable for the person with cancer to field awkward interactions. That said, here are a few things I hope you’ll consider if you choose to react or respond to this post or reach out to me:
1- Feel free to like this post, give it a heart, an angry face, even laugh. Laughter is healing after all. I just ask that you refrain from using the guy with the tear. Currently I am life facing but this is a difficult journey filled with constant sadness and grief. To me, that particular emoji feels like a sadness you can click and scroll away from. Should you want to contact me directly and talk about your sadness, I welcome that. That feels like a real interaction that honors the weight of the emotions surrounding this disease and questions of mortality that inevitably arise.
2- Should you feel inclined to tell me about a relative or loved one you know, who has or had cancer, please keep in mind that you are giving me an opportunity to be of service to you and not the other way around. While I am absolutely happy to connect with you about that sort of thing, it won’t make me feel more understood or less alone but it may allow me to do that for you.
3- Before you send me videos or links to cancer cures, please know I am doing a variety of things, in addition to the western standard of care to treat this disease. If you have a burning desire to share something, please have done your research. While it may come from the right place, a video you saw in passing about a lemon rind or positive thought cure or a take on how doctors get kickbacks from chemo care, is careless to disseminate. I know those are from the heart, so I will thank you in advance for thinking of me. No need to hit send. Talk to me instead.
And, finally, I have been blogging intermittently about my journey. My once anonymous blog will become public after the show and you are more than welcome to check it out: www.everythingleadstothis.com