Hi welcome to “A terminal case of hope”. My name is Kate, I am a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter and I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer on Nov. 1st, 2010. Balancing a terminal diagnosis with life has been an interesting experience. Ups, downs and all-arounds have happened over the last ALMOST five years! While I have been lucky to manage my diagnosis with the help of an incredible medical team as well as an incredible support system all around me, many of my family members haven’t been as lucky.
A year before my diagnosis at the age of 32, my world was rocked when my beautiful mom died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. That year of firsts was difficult, that grief so incredibly overwhelming, all-consuming. Managing the grief with a full time job and my family (my husband and three kids ages 4,5,6) proved challenging. So almost one year after my mom’s death in 2010, when I had an infection in my right arm pit that just wouldn’t go away, an ultrasound and wait, oh crap, wait 4 biopsies I knew things weren’t looking great. A battery of tests later and I found myself diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with mets to the bones. I remember my oncologist asking me, “Weren’t you tired at all”? I remember thinking I’m always tired, isn’t that the life of a mom? I don’t know what I should feel like?
A whirlwind of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation followed. And at every turn, there was good news. It was working, my body was handling it, I was young and strong, etc..My medical team was stellar and my family and friends even more incredible. A long story short, we kicked the cancer into what my oncologist would only very cautiously call a “partial remission”. I was able to take daily oral meds along with monthly infusions. Soon, the monthly infusions turned into every 8 weeks. Things were looking up. Every scan that I endured, whether it was a PET, a CT, an MRI, a mammogram, I was growing a bit more confident. Maybe I would see that illusive 5-year-mark, I just might live to see it.
Moving on from the spring of 2011, I learned not to take ANYTHING for granted. Take the vacations, read the magazine and leave the sink full of dishes, play with the kids in the lake, ride bikes for ice cream. Make time for the important things and let the little things stay little. Pick your feet up in that lazy river and well, just let it sweep you up. Be thankful for this time because in many ways it feels very borrowed!
The time never felt more borrowed than in the summer of 2013 when more cancer swept in to claim more victims so close to me and my family. My dad, just 69 was diagnosed with bile duct cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) on Aug. 10th, 2013, by Sept. 6 he was gone. Helplessly watching my dad die so rapidly knocked me off my feet. But – when my 31-year-old little brother and best friend died just 52 days later from pancreatic cancer I found myself completely devastated. Cancer had ravaged my family. But somehow here I was? Still living, still thriving?