It’s December and so it’s that time of the year when women around the world begin to consider their New Year’s Eve toasts. Some will “wing it” while others put pen to paper but most are preparing to declare their victory, to use the “S” word and put an exclamation point on 2013. “F U Cancer! I win! I’m a survivor!” Will ring out across the land.
Sadly for 30% of these women, the words will be spoken too soon. There may be years between now and the day they realize the “S” word does not apply to them but for now they will declare themselves victorious.
But the thing about Metaplastic Breast Cancer, the thing is…. It comes back… “early and often.” And to be sure there are MpBC women who declare their victory too soon but there are even more of us who know better, more of us who quietly cross our fingers and do the sign of the cross because we are waiting… waiting for the other shoe to drop. We know all too well that there is no victory, no “S” word for us, not yet. We whistle past the graveyard hoping to tiptoe into the next year unnoticed by Metaplastic Breast Cancer.
My first diagnosis came in Feburary 2012. By the end of September 2012 I was done with surgeries, chemo and radiation. I was a mere ten weeks out, still visiting my support group, still waiting for the short curly hair to grow out, still wondering if the chemo fog would ever lift. I barely had time to consider how I would define survivor when I found a new lump Thanksgiving weekend. It took nearly a month to get to the doctor, schedule the scans and have a biopsy done just two days after Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, I was still waiting quietly for the pathology report… crossing my fingers and sign of the cross.
And, the same was true for many of my metaplastic friends. While I quietly waited for my results women in our group silently did the same. When the diagnosis came back “more MpBC” and I told the others of my fate, many more stepped forward to share their news as well. Two young mothers, a few more women under 50 and a few of us with college-aged children all on our second round with this disease. Some of us were luckier than others with the new tumors still confined to our breasts, some not.
So as the year closes out, it feels like a parade of women in our group (many first diagnosed after me in 2012) are still in treatment for their second and sometimes third time. Metaplastic Breast Cancer is considered chemo-resistant and some studies show recurrence rates (5yr DFS rates) at nearly 50%. It comes back quickly, and boy-oh-boy do we know that. There is no time to declare victory, we will not rush to judgment. There are no blowing horns, we are quiet, silently listening for the other shoe……