Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cancer's Bitch

Life, in all its beauty, morphs.  We begin as innocent children, counting the spots on a ladybug, climbing trees with friends, laughing at cartoons.  We become teens, worried about our place in micro-society, understanding a future is coming but not sure what it is.  Young adulthood arrives, with the many mistakes and trials we are given along with that famous sense of invincibility.  Marriage and parenthood brings with it some settling, a deep understanding of responsibility.

People have different paths, and different choices lead them to have different outcomes.  But, the one certainty is that the purpose of life changes as we live it.

And, in a small way, so has the purpose of this blog, which started as a documentation of a particular aspect of my life.  When I first began it,  as a convenience for friends, family, and myself - I was writing about a cancer that would end.  I was going to be that cancer asskicker that I called myself all over this blog, the one who takes this disease by the horns and shoves it where it belongs.  I knew the odds for survival, which were long in my favor, so I wrote with confidence and laughter at each thing thrown my way, knowing whatever hardships I faced, they would be overcome.

When treatment was over, I had decided to put down my keyboard.  In fact, I was in the process of writing my good-bye post, explaining that I was moving on to my version of cancer survivorship and a renewed life.  I'd decided I was not going to live cancer when it was gone, was not going to spend my days in fear of each new ache, and was not going to continue to discuss or write about what was in the past. That was my way of recovering,  and the only way I could think to do it - leaving it all behind.

Cancer's ass, I'd decided, was kicked.

But it didn't happen.  I was very quickly diagnosed with metastatic disease - so quickly I suspect it was there all along.  But, my doctor said I was still "salvageable," and I was given the chance for a rare liver resection and to be one of the 5% who live five years past a metastatic diagnosis.  Heck, maybe even ten, or twenty.  I was dreaming, sure,  but it was a possibility, there was hope.  I was still a cancer asskicker, or still had the chance to be.  From that point on, this blog would be about living with metastatic cancer, beating those terrible odds and showing it could happen.

Which, it didn't.

In less than a year, cancer was back in my liver.  At that point, I knew.  The fight was over.  From salvage to wreckage, in one scan.  Instead of trying to save me, now my doctors make sure that my Advanced Directive is done. I am not going to kick cancer's ass, in fact, I am cancer's bitch.  It will take me when it's ready, and I have little say in the matter.  The point of this blog changed again.  Now it is to describe my life as a terminal patient.  I hope it can be about how one prepares their family, manages time and fears, and demonstrates a renewed appreciation for what is left of life.

Because I believe death is natural and know life is full of small tragedies, I have been able to accept this without denial.  I am a nobody in the grand scheme of time and human history, an eyelash that falls unnoticed, a drop in the ocean, important only to those who know me, and who will be forgotten in less years than I've lived, except I hope, by my children, who will think of me when they are old.  It is sad that I will die before "my time" but it is not unique in this world.  Children lose mothers, husbands lose wives, and it happens every day.

Why do I clarify this?  I am in a "Best Blogs" contest on Healthline. The grand prize is large, $1000.00, so I have been active in the process of winning.   I am grateful for every vote, for every person who has taken time out of their day to help me win, and for whoever nominated me as Best Blog in the first place.

But as I see the facebook and twitter posts from people who encourage their own social networks to vote for me,  I notice that many write,  "Vote for my friend Ann, who is blogging about her fight to beat cancer" or tweet, "vote for Ann who is kicking cancer's ass."  I receive many comments wishing me well in my "fight" or telling me to never give up,  saying they hope things will turn around for me and that miracles happen.   I realized that while I have changed my thinking about what is going on with me and what this blog is now about, some around me have not.

I am not fighting to beat cancer.  Cancer has won.  I continue to write, to share what it is like to have a cancer, to have a terminal illness.  I am still a cancer blogger, but the fight is gone.  I say this not in defeat, but in acceptance.

There is no magic that will change this, no hidden medicine or miracle treatment.  My ending is written.

Yes, I still have hope.  It is not the same hope you might have, or the hope you think you would have in my place.   Hope never dies, but as with life (and blogs), it morphs.  I don't hope to beat cancer.  I just hope for small amounts of time.  I can still hope to see my son graduate high school.  I can still hope to feel well enough to visit a newly born family member.  I can still hope that I see another spring, and summer. Mostly, I hope to appreciate every day I have.

I also hope to die with dignity, not become too dependent on others, and not cause suffering to those around me.  I hope I can prepare them, I hope I get a great hospice team, and I hope all are able to look at death as natural, as I do.

The final phase of this blog arrived, and I think the beautiful Soul Pancake video about my family and me has ushered it in..  The fight is over, but I'm still here.  And, as long as I am, I'll tell my stories, make some jokes and hopefully, show that one can leave this world peacefully, gratefully and with love.


To vote for me in the Healthline Best Blog contest, you must log in from a facebook or twitter account.  You may vote once a day.  Healthline does not use your account for anything other than posting to your wall that you voted, and you can stop that by clicking the "X" after your vote.

 Here is the link:

I would be very grateful to win, as the money will go towards my son's college costs.

For daily updates, jokes and inspiration, like me on facebook:


  1. Thank you for speaking the truth, your truth. Sometimes awkward things need to be spoken. You do it well and help many people.

  2. As always Ann, your words speak volumes, and are able to touch so many on so many levels. You have a real gift, you ARE a real gift, and I am so thankful that I have met you.
    There is one thing with which I will disagree in what you wrote here. You said you are a "nobody" I strongly disagree. You are an amazing and caring woman, you touch untold numbers of people with your blog. Your blog no doubt changes people. Then those people interact with others in their "new and improved" manner, and so on. You are a priceless, and precious person. Thank you Ann. Thank you for all you do.
    God Bless

  3. Ann, well said - sad, but well said. I agree with Tom, you have touched so many people with your blog - thank you for all you do. I so enjoy your writing and hope you will be doing so for quite awhile! Take care - I will continue to vote every day, you can count on it!

  4. As you know I'm new to your blog but I check in on you daily and I vote daily. My prayer for you is that you can enjoy all of life's blessings, both small and large, in your remaining time. That the "good" days far outweigh the bad and that you are showered with love and peace. Please know you have made a difference in my life and I now am determined to spread the real story on the "go pink" farce. Like you, my friend had metastatic breast cancer and all the pink in the world could not address that because it is not part of the "plan". Thank you for shining a spotlight on that. XO

  5. Ann, I have been reading your blog for 2 years.... As I morphed through my own cancer.. I know where it is you come from though I dont pretend to understand exactly what you feel. It is only through acceptance of our own death that we can truly enjoy life. You have gone to a higher place. You have a wisdom that only comes with acceptance but it is a place that not everyone can understand or allow themselves to go.
    Please know I think and pray for you every day, not for any miracle but for your peace, and for whatever time you need to see the things that matter to you most. You have had an amazing life and while you can be sure your family will never forget you, you will live on for a lifetime in the lives of many others that you will never know. With love, L

  6. I know that you may recognize me by now, but know again how instrumental you were in teaching me how to come alongside our best friend who was terminal, and help them. If I had not read your blog, I would still be asking what I could do, instead of saying hey we are coming over and going to fix that shed roof and bring dinner, and sit with Steve so you can take your kids to their activities. Without reading your blog, I would not have known just what to do to help. But because of this blog, we helped, and are still helping, and we pray we can always be there for the family. So thank you, you may not have kicked cancer in the butt, but you showed at least one person in the internet world how to care for a terminal person, how to show that caring, and loving, is more important than anything. I pray not for your healing, but for your to have comfort,and peace in the time left here on earth. I continue and will continue to follow your story, and tell my friends, to vote for my friend on the internets. Peace Ann, Lisa

  7. I think it's normal for people to want to be unrealistically optimistic about a terminal diagnosis rather than agree that it's hopeless and appear callous. It's just human nature - like telling someone that their awful new hairdo looks good.
    Another thing that I think is that anyone stumblimg onto this site knows that it's about metastatic cancer. You're not pulling any punches; it's right out there in the open. It's up to the reader as to whether they want to know about this. Personally, I want to know what happens next and I'm here for the journey for as long as you want to take the time to describe it.
    Of course, since I care about what happens to you, that makes you "extra special" and you should be granted a reprieve/miracle as a result. Deep down inside, we really believe that about ourselves and the people we care about. Just sayin'.

  8. I just found your blog, began reading from the beginning, and am just SO glad you just posted what you did. I want you to hear how very important your POV is. I am in a second bc tx episode, the first was 10 years back. Surgery and a more definitive path report will come tomorrow. I am 62 and with a stage 2 situation, can barely say I have any idea what you and other stage 4's have been through. Your clarity about the process you have been going through, from details about personalities to fatigue issues and quality of care, all matter to a lot of patients, and its just incredible to hear it so loudly, clearly and wittily!!! Is that a word? Anyway, Much warmth and affection to you. Mame

  9. Thank you for sharing. I admire your honesty and acceptance and ability to write about it so eloquently.

  10. Dearest Ann.

    You were my inspiration & a light in my life during my journey through cancer - (diagnosed in December 2009 - mastectomy in Jan 2010 followed by chemo) I luckily got that early diagnosis - through no special skills or awareness on my behalf - just damn lucky, so after a radical mastectomy & chemo, I'm now "cured" - but as we all know, "cured" is just a "wait for the other shoe to drop", but we live our lives as if we're all amputees - there is no other shoe. During my journey I would quote you to everyone & wax lyrical about your strength & humour through the worst time in your life. I wish with all my heart that I could inspire you & be a part of your healing, as you were with me & mine. Maybe in a small way, knowing that there are folk in South Africa sending their healing thoughts & prayers will help. Your blog has reached across the globe, you are not alone, we're all with you, holding your hand, sending you love, I know that the medical fraternity have given you a prognosis, but with hope all things are possible, don't let the medics dictate your life - although I know you don't, but keep strong, keep fighting, there is always a possibility.

    Love always

  11. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for putting into cohesive thoughts the things that plague my mind. While I have not followed your blog long, I have gone back and read through it. While I myself do not have BC, my mom does and was diagnosed at the getgo Stage IV. I have been her caregiver now for almost a year. Your blog helps me to gain the courage to ask her questions and helps guide me in how I can respond to the tough answers that no daughter wants to hear. It eases my mental state to see humor in your entries, and your humor is similar to mine. Thank you for making this journey a little easier.
    I really do hope that you see your wishes and hopes come to fruition. *Huge albeit gentle hugs*

  12. I so appreciate your honesty Ann. You have a true gift with words, and have helped so many people, and touched so many lives. My perspective is a little different, because I believe in eternal life, and I have seen miracles happen, but I completely respect your point of view. I think the things you are sharing with the world are having a great impact on people's lives. You are an amazing woman, and have a beautiful family!

  13. Thank you for your outstanding and inspirational blog.You're an excellent writer. I voted for you and will continue to do so. Sending positive thoughts to you.

  14. I voted and I hope you win. You are in the lead at the moment! And thank you for your work here at this blog. As someone who is past my own sell-by date, who watched a sister die from cancer without every being able to come to grips with what was happening, I really appreciate the honesty you bring to the discussion. I read a lot of cancer-related bloggers, and I have to say you are rather unique. And I mean that in a very good way.

  15. Thank you for these deeply profound words. I stumbled upon your blog while researching health blogs at work several months ago and have been checking in ever since for the truly touching, funny, sincere, no-nonsense way that you write about your life and illness. It is its own special kind of bravery to know what you are up against and accept it, and I hope to someday demonstrate a fraction of the grace that you have shown here. My best wishes and thoughts go to you and your family for all of the things that you are hoping for. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. -K in Washington, D.C.

  16. I really liked your reflection on hope - how it's still there but you hope for different things knowing your disease cannot be cured. I thought it was very profound.

    Cancer's bitch? I guess your body is but certainly not your spirit, personality or the essence of you. You have touched many people through this blog in addition to your family and friends and don't underestimate that legacy.

    I voted for you and posted the link to your blog so I'm hoping others discover it. I'd love for you to get that money for your Son.

  17. Beautifully written, thanks for sharing so much with us.

  18. I also have stage IV breast cancer. I have been reading your blogs for quite a while now. You verbalize things that so far, I have only told those that are closest to me. And denial is present in a big way in their responses to me when I speak the truth. So far, because I am still able to work, and be very independent... hearing that denial is ok with me. But I am slowly and gently trying to let them know that this is not always the way it's going to be.
    I appreciate your blog, and it's honesty so much. The humor and realness of your words have given me reassurance on many occasions.
    Thank you for being willing to put it all out there.

  19. I have also been reading your posts...almost from the start of your mother passed away from breast cancer in '95; she was 48 and I was 27. I guess I want to reassure you that your children will always remember you and think of you often. I still think about my least a few times a day, and I still tell stories about her to keep her memory alive. I wish I could tell her that she is still remembered. She was upset about before she passed away...that she would be forgotten. Thank you for reading this, and I wish you the best.

  20. Ann, I voted today! I am new to this. My sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer and I am trying to deal with the news. This isn't about me though. I just need to know how to be strong for her. How to ask the right questions and do the right things to help. I have no real understanding yet of the full prognosis. I am just me trying to figure it out. I am taking so much comfort in just reading from your blog...I wanted you to know. I will be voting and if I can figure out how to send your blog to my friends on facebook...I will be asking them to join in. However, it also occurs to me that even without this contest, we should be able to donate to your cause. How many people follow you? I bet anyone who knows you would love to donate even a small amount to your cause that would far surpass $1000.

    1. Thank you for voting!

      I'm terribly sorry to hear about your sister. Cancer can be very confusing, especially at first. You don't realize that breast cancer is really complicated until somebody in your family is diagnosed with it. Feel free to email me at butdoctorihatepink at if you have any questions. I'm not a doctor but I've learned a lot living with it for three years and maybe I can help.

      As for how to support her, just take her lead. Some days she may want to talk and some days, just be normal. Don't bring it up all the time but if she brings it up, don't push her back. Don't minimize her fears. Nobody is perfect at this cancer thing but you love her so you'll be okay.

      I am not trying to raise money on the blog. This has been a labor of love. I accept donations but I think of that as like a book. I've written a book sized blog by now and if people have read it all and want to give ten bucks, fine. If they don't, that's fine too, that was never the point.

      As for the contest, somebody entered me, I didn't enter it myself. So, I hope I win but I'm okay if I don't. Somebody deserving will win :) I've been telling my son for years that he needs to get scholarships! :) He has perfect grades (and then some) so should be able to qualify for a few.

      Thanks. Hugs to you and hugs to your sister.

    2. Ann, Thank you! I needed that. I feel terrible being the one to need comfort when this isn't even me and I really don't know much yet. I try to be upbeat and brave but then I just lose it sometimes. I am incredibly scared and trying to be positive. What works for me is trying NOT to think about it and when I need to talk to my sister it takes a little time to shake myself down but I think I have managed. Today I learned that my sister is going in Tuesday for a stint so they do not have to poke her each time for the Chemo. This is a good thing but now it feels even more real. I couldn't stop thinking about it...about you...and I came here to read your blog only to see you responded to me. You are just amazing. I believe that helping others also helps I want you to know how much it meant to me that you wrote me back! Bless you sincerely.

      Well... on the bright let me tell you that I was so glad to hear that your son is a good student. I am an educator and I am always so ready to take up arms and encourage people to go to school. The worst part about scholarships is they are a bit time-consuming to find and then often require more work for a "chance" at getting them. But hey!... free money for school is free money for school...and the effort is worth it!

      I will email you! I don't have one of these other accounts to be anything but anonymous here and I do so hate that. I have been thinking about a private blog to give me a place to spill my tears silently. I feel awful for needing it, but obviously this is nothing like anything I have ever experienced because for some reason I simply turn off the emotions. (ugh!) I know that I cannot go on like this and that I have to nip it in the bud but so far I have had little luck with that! I really need to have a place to put my feelings and I am thinking that a blog seems like a good idea.

      Although I have already proven that I am not a robot (lol) I thought you might like to know my name at least. I am Joanie Bergstrom. Thank you again for reaching out to me. Again, unbelievable. What an Godsend you are!

    3. Joanie,

      I think a private blog is a good idea. You can share your thoughts and process your emotions in writing and nobody has to read it. Or, you can set it up so just a few people have access. It does help to write things out.

      I sometimes think it is harder on our family than on us.

      FYI: Your sister is getting a port, not a stint. A nit but to help her you should learn the terminology, so when she talks about it you know what she means. It is, by the way, an extremely easy surgery and not hard at all. It will hurt a bit about 6 hours later when the locals wear off but the pain and discomfort only lasts a day or so. Mine is in my arm! I'm rare. :)

  21. dear ann

    I'm iris and I am 19 years old.
    I started reading your blog because I lost my mother 12 years ago when I was 7 and I really wanted to know who it must have been for here .
    I know now that she didn't fight for survival but for all the time to spend with here children .
    I can't imagine who hard it must have been for her knowing she would never see me and my brother grow up .but she never gave up on smiling :)

    I wish everyday that she would be here. I hate experiencing thing without here ( I don't even want children because she can't be there and see them ) I hope your children will see like me also the positive effects of such tragic event because they really do exist. it will make them who they are and stronger than people who didn't experience this . ofcourse it will be different for them than for me because I was only 7 and i would give everything I have if I could have a few weeks more with here .

    please tell your children everyday you love them and comfort them because it a very scary period . tell one of your best friends to hug them when you are no longer there my mom did this and now i still get her hugs (maybe I don't admit but I love them )

    please keep fighting not against cancer but for every second you spend with somebody you love . please say my mom and my little brother hi when you are up there until then smile and take care

    1. Iris,

      Thank you for writing me such a beautiful note, it really touched my heart. I know as a mother that leaving my children is the worst thing. I love my family so much and would never leave them if I had any control over it, and I know your mom felt the same way. Just know that she loves you eternally, as I love my kids.

      I know because I'm a mom that your mom would want you to have a full life. She would want you to have children and love them like she did, maybe you will see your mother's smile in one of their faces.

      I love thinking of her hugging you through her friend, she was smart to think of that. I will tell my friend to do that for my children too.

      Iris, it is true that this tragedy has made you strong in many ways. And, it has clearly made you a loving woman. I wish it didn't have to happen to you. I wish it didn't have to happen to me. I wish it didn't have to happen to anybody - I wish all mothers could always stay with their children. None of us ever want to leave them. But, I can just tell by this note that you are going to live your life in a way that would make her very proud.

      I wish I could hug you too.

  22. Dear Ann, I've just found your blog I don't know how; and I've started to read many of your posts; I love your writing, it is so sharp and transparent it makes me want to be sharp and transparent too. I really hope you can turn your blog into a book. You're definitely a writer and an intense life lover. I will definitely come back (and I voted!)
    Agnès (a french woman living in Mexico)


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