Thursday, January 24, 2013

"You can do it, look at Lance."




There is hardly a more awkward thing to drop into polite conversation than, "I have terminal cancer" so if somebody asks me how I am,  like the rest of you, I say "fine." I do sometimes run across people who know I've got cancer and who ask specifics, and in that case, I tell the truth.  I don't have anything to be ashamed of, but I like to be sure they really want to know.  If they use the word "prognosis," I spill.   I usually soften it a bit,  "I'm terminal but my doctors don't give time estimates."  That way they won't feel like I might drop dead before they've finished their coffee.

The most common response I get to that news is, "Well, don't give up, look at Lance Armstrong.  He was near death and he went on to win the Tour de France and now he's cured."  That response is so predictable it might as well enter the Cancer Cliche book, along with "New Normal" and "Battle with Cancer."

I am not here to bust anybody's hero or rip their yellow wristband off, and I know that having cancer - any cancer - is a bad and frightening thing.  But, Lance Armstrong did not only lie about performance-enhancing drugs, and did not only (cruelly) sue people who told the truth about him. Lance Armstrong, World's Most Famous and Inspirational Cancer Patient, exaggerated his cancer story too.

He admittedly perpetuated the story that he was on death's door with metastatic testicular cancer, and only by sheer grit, determination and will to live is he standing today.  But in the end, Lance was not only standing; that is for mere mortals. After "battling" a near fatal cancer, Lance comes back to win the Tour de France.  That's an amazing story.   And in creating that comeback myth, he inadvertently made it even harder for us who actually do have unbeatable cancers and are facing that hard fact, because now, hey, if Lance can do it, why can't we?

Didn't you know that overcoming cancer is merely a matter of willpower, like giving up your nightly ice cream?

In his book he asks, "The question that lingers is, how much was I a factor in my own survival, and how much was science, and how much miracle?"

It's a good question. Lance, I have the answer for you. The main factor in your survival was your luck in getting one of the most survivable cancers known to man.  You can call that a miracle if you want; all I can say is I certainly wish I'd had testicles.  (Although, I really don't know how you guys walk around with those things.)

(Quick cancer lesson:  when cancer metastasizes, it is still the original cancer.  Lance had mets in his brain, but it was still testicular cancer in his brain - I know, it seems every guy has testicle cells on the brain, right?  I have mets in my liver, but I don't have liver cancer, I have breast cancer in my liver. Although this is simplistic, it helps to know.  Type of cancer matters, even when it spreads. Some can be cured, no matter where it decides to live, and some cannot.)

Metastatic testicular cancer of the type Lance had has a poor prognosis for that type - which means he had a more than 50% cure rate.   Many men with metastatic testicular disease have a 70% cure rate, but Lance's was aggressive so he had a 50/50 shot, as he has admitted.  People who catch it early have an almost 100% cure rate.

A 50% cure rate sounds like heaven to me, although I've not a doubt it was a scary number to Lance at age 25. Personally, I would have found those odds to be excellent.  Back in the good old days, when my odds were 70% chance of survival, I never doubted I would survive.

Now though, I have metastatic breast cancer (to the liver).  It has a 0% cure rate.  The average life expectancy for me is 3 years.  Five year survival in women with mets to the liver is 8% but survival does not equate to cure.

Lance had two surgeries, one to remove his testicle and one to remove a lesion in his brain.  He did four rounds of chemo. The entire experience apparently took four months. He was diagnosed October 1996 and was declared cancer-free in February 1997, start to finish.   He is considered cured, and held up by everybody as the ultimate cancer survivor, the one who Lives Strong - the Standard Bearer for Cancer Patients, the one we should all look to for hope and inspiration.

In his book, he has allowed this myth to be perpetuated, and according to what I hear, what people have taken from that, and from what I've heard from Lance's own lips is that strength of will and determination is what it takes to survive cancer.  When somebody says to me,  "Hey, if Lance can do it, you can too" it implies some sort of failure of spirit and will on my part if I happen to die.

Which I will.   Die.   I am not going to live through this, no matter how good my attitude is, how much I want to, how much I fight.

No, I cannot do what Lance has done.  I don't have the cancer he had.

The real question is: could Lance could do what I have done?  Rather than 4 months from start to finish,  I have finished my third year in treatment.   I am on my 7th chemo and my 3rd targeted treatment.  I had 3 surgeries.   I have been on chemo for pretty much three straight years in a row, I have had half my liver removed, recovered from sepsis and c-diff pancolitis.  And, I still pick my son up from school every day, I make dinner when I can, I do chores if possible.  I am declining, I'm tired, I sleep a lot, but I manage.  I laugh with my family, I try to be with friends, I blog and I find inspirational stuff to post on facebook to try and keep other cancer patient's spirits up. I do my best without hurting anybody but while facing that fearsome reality.

I don't ride bikes or do athletic endeavors because I cannot, and in my place, neither could Lance.  Walking and breathing at the same time is hard now, as it would be even for Lance.   I would like to see Lance Armstrong, or anybody else, live in my shoes for a few days and then write about willpower and miracles and mental strength overcoming cancer.

I'm not here to beat up on Lance.  I don't care about sports, and the media has him now.  He can use this "outing" to turn into a good guy or not.  I don't care.  I'm truly glad he survived his very survivable cancer.   I am just using his name for one reason - anybody searching for Lance Armstrong and Cancer and finds this blog should know one thing:

Don't tell your terminal friend to "look at Lance" for inspiration.

We can't see him, relate to him, or be him. When you say that to us, what we are hearing is:  "My friend thinks Lance is stronger than me.  That he has more mental power than I do.  If I die, I am lacking. I just am not trying hard enough. I did it wrong.  It's my fault."  When the truth is, we were never on the same cancer plane.  He had a curable cancer.  Many of us just do not.

When we tell you we are terminal, believe us.  Validate us.   Tell us you are sorry.  See if you can help.  Don't push us away and tell us that it is survivable because some remarkable athlete survived a very survivable cancer.  It doesn't help - it hurts.  It invalidates our real and painful experience.

Lance's survival story has impacted the dying experience for many of us.   People - many people,  perceive it as a failure of strength when we don't beat cancer, as many of us cannot, no matter how positive and wonderful we are. Graves are filled with positive, strong people who died of cancer.

Remember, my friends,  it is possible to "live strong" and with a sense of humor and sense of strength - while knowing you are dying.  It is also possible to face your disease and your treatment and your death with grace.  I am doing that every day, or trying to.

Bottom line:  Living strong is not the only way to handle cancer.  Dying strong, when there is no other option, is powerful too.  And, life, Mr. Armstrong, is not all about winning and losing.  Sometimes, it is about how you play the game, even when you are destined to lose.





~~~~~~~~~~

Please vote for me in Healthline's Best Blog Contest.   You all have done a remarkable job helping me stay at the top and I'm very grateful as the underdog to still be in the lead!.  Keep it up and tell your friends!  This money will go to my son's college fund since I won't be around to help with that.  Vote here:    http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest

81 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your blog. I have a very close friend (41 year old single mom) with metastatic breast cancer. She is the strongest person I know but her cancer is still incurable. I don't always know the right things to say but it definitely helps to know what NOT to say. Keep writing. I am sure you are helping more people than you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think just listening is the best thing you can do. Whether she wants to talk about it or not. Sometimes she will, sometimes she'll just want normality but whatever she says, listen, don't try to deflect it away. That happens to us so much. I know dying is scary but if we can't even talk about it with friends and family than we are very alone.

      Delete
  2. Thank you, dear Ann, for your candor, humor and your amazing spirit. Thank you also for telling it like it is in this post. You are so appreciated. And now I'm off to vote for you yet another time. I sure hope you win.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You've articulated my feelings about Lance far better than I could. The comparison (while well-intended) between us mere mortals with cancer and those super-human celebrities who seem to float through their treatment on gossamer angel wings with nary a blip in the course of their life... deeply annoys me. Thank you for this post. You have encouraged me to complete my post about Lance as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That was so well said, Ann. I appreciate very much your expression of this perspective. Thank you for saying the hard honest truth.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes! Finally!! Someone with the nerve to say it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Ann. Well said.
    Angela

    ReplyDelete
  7. Whew! When you said you had a Lance post coming up I started to feel guilty about my thoughts since you're such a positive person. All I can say now is, right on! I love your bottom line, wondering if I can work that into a cross stitch? ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you , Ann, for saying what I think. My very wonderful husband died of leukemia in 1977 at the age of 30. He was the bravest, funniest, kindest and brightest person that I have ever known. He had one of the first bone marrow transplants when the science was new. He knew it was a long shot but wasn't ready to leave us. A film was made about him called "Revolve" by the American artist Nancy Holt..In it he talked about the reality of knowing that his time on this earth would be shorter than he had expected but he was going to (like you are) live, love, continue to be engaged and curious until it wasn't possible anymore. And he did...and we were all the better for it. The film lives on..still be shown art galleries around the world this many years later. When I hear talk of "good attitude" or kharma being factors in a prognosis..I get so mad....there are some things that are so clearly out of our control.. And like you say...another burden of responsibility or blame that a cancer patient doesn't need. Thank you so much for your honesty, candor and bravery and , not in the least, for your good humour. You are still here...alive and vibrant in your writing..even if you don't always feel vibrant in your body. You will continue to be here ...for a long time..your spirit resonates... Love to you ..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I'll look for that movie,maybe it's on netflix or somewhere? Vibrant doesn't apploy to me physically anymore but I'm glad to hear I still come across that way in writing!

      Delete
  9. Ann, you make several good points in this post. One is about the myth that a positive attitude can cure cancer. As a stage 3 BC survivor and blogger, I am often asked to do talks. I was recently asked to speak about positive attitude to an audience of 500 high school students and staff. I realized at the onset that one of the teachers had recently lost his young wife to IBC, and several of the students I knew personally had lost mothers and loved ones. I thought how unfair it would be to to perpetuate the myth that a positive attitude saved my life. That would indirectly imply that their loved ones did not possess a positive enough attidue to save them!
    In my talks and in my writing, I do stress the importance of a positive attitude, not for QUANTITY of life, but as you have illustrated, for QUALITY of life.
    Also, thanks for that take on Lance. It was a real eye opener for me. In fact, in my blog I had recently made a comment that he may have cheated at sports, but he did not cheat at beating cancer. Hmmmmmmm, it seems that he did cheat here as well, if he exaggerated his diagnosis! Very insightful as always. Keep 'em comin'!
    www.perksofcancer.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you posted here, I keep meaning to link to your blog, which I like quite much. I did felt you took the "lance can do no wrong" tack and it is possible he has helped many people with his, not quite true story. People look outside themselves for inspiration but they really should look inward. It isn't about what Lance, or I, can do. But what can you do? A bombshell drops in your life and you know another will drop again - and you have a choice - get under the bed and whimper forever, or get up, look at what's left and try to make the most of your new reality until the next bomb drops?

      I have said all along that keeping a positive attitude and looking for the beautiy in life will not give me an extra second of heartbeat. But, it will help me enjoy my time along the way, until that last heartbeat. Acceptance is okay. Our society is so death averse that it feels like a failure if we do succumb. It shouldn't. We are all going to be there in the end.

      Delete
  10. p.s. I logged in as "anonymous" to make the previous comment only because I could not get in under my wordpress account!
    Flo at perksofcancer.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ann, you nailed it.
    As a BRCA2 breast cancer patient (in remission) and a journalist who covered the top tier of professional cycling for 17 years (toward the end, doping was my beat), I have to say I've drawn a lot more inspiration from you, Ann, than I ever took from that fella with the wristband.

    I went through about as much chemo as L.A. and did my best to maintain, not a "positive" attitude as much as an irreverent attitude. Thus far, I've done well and things appear to be okay, but I credit my doctor for that part. The whole attitude thing just made the whole process bearable. It sure as heck didn't "cure" me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your irreverent attitude and support has helped me too. :)

      Delete
  12. Couldn't agree with you more!
    I'm amazed that you can keep up with your daily routine at all! That is will power, and not "beating" a survivable cancer.
    A good attitude is great to make the most of the time you have. As to the outcome, I believe it is totally out of our control.
    Oh, and I'm voting now again ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ann I appreciate your candor. I remember reading a book on exercising through cancer that I had checked out at the library because I had no stamina while in chemo.
    I remember thinking if Lance did it maybe I can too. I went to the gym for two days, caught the mother of all colds because my white count was far to low to be at the gym and ended up worse than where I started. I really beat myself up that I was not strong like that and felt really pathetic that I had not been able to do more than two little days.

    I actually had no idea about the particulars of his treatment until reading your post.
    I think after Bilateral mastectomies followed by MRSA and then wretched chemo every three weeks for 6 months until I begged to just stop taking it. (Thankful my husband begged more for me not too.)

    3 major surgeries later I am trying to "Live strong" because I am a widowed woman with a 3 year old child that I have to be around to raise god willing.
    Anyone of us who has lived through 4 rounds of "AC" should be commended for surviving the red devil. Much less another 6 to 12 of a Taxotane drug. I still have side effects and will for some time no doubt.

    Thank you Ann, my prognosis is not too bad at this moment but if someday my son needs more information in dealing with a terminal prognosis with me I will point him to your strength and that of your families.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You are the epitome of "living strong". I am awed, and humbled by you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. So true! Sometimes I think it is easier for people to say, "You'll beat this" so that they can go about their day feeling good about themselves. Once cancer hits you, you quickly realize that there are those who TRULY care, those that simply don't, and those who, as Jack Nicholson famously said, "Can't Handle the truth!" I am 42, single Mom, with triple neg cancer. I have gone the 8 rounds of dense dose AC and Taxol, while raising and mostly loving my children who are 13 & 9. Yes, I cry but I try hard to find the humor and beauty in every single day. That focus is what keeps me going. I have my double mastectomy coming up soon......that is when I will definitively find out if there is lymph node involvement. If there is, with triple neg....I'm not ignorant to what my future holds. I have realized that I am a lot stronger than I ever knew and that I want to be a light in other's lives, especially during my fight. I also want to help others the rest of my life in their own fight and that includes caregivers. What I like most about your blog is the honesty...this isn't pretty, it sure isn't sexy and yet I have never been prouder to be a woman.

    Lance's ego is so huge that even after a life changing event of cancer, he chose to go forward with a life of cheating. Not only did he learn nothing from the cancer experience, he only used it to build the myth that he enjoyed making. I have learned that people like him will eventually face repercussions for their actions, but even those will not ever make them "see"

    You are a beautiful person who makes this world a better place. Thank you and God bless you!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. 1) LIVESTRONG, the organization, has just as much about dying the way that you choose to as it does living the way you choose to. Per the manifesto:
    "We're about the hard stuff... And if it comes to it, being in control of how your life ends.
    It's your life. You will have it your way."

    2) I have a friend that is currently terminal with BC mets. I'm a survivor. I'm also a LIVESTRONG Leader. I don't tell her to look to Lance for anything. I encourage her to reach out to the organization for support. For resources. To help her family start building a support system for themselves for when the time comes.

    So how is that not asking her to live strongly the way that she wants to spend her final days?

    Sometimes knowing it's time to fight IS living strong.

    And LIVESTRONG recognizes that.

    Please don't mix LIVESTRONG with Lance's current demise.

    And, you know what? How many times have we heard, "Oh! You have breast cancer? You're lucky it's not worse!" So how can you point at Lance and say his cancer wasn't as bad as someone else's when people do that to us all the time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you even read what I wrote? I didn't write a word about LIVESTRONG the organization. I wrote the truth about the man who started it and part of his legacy based on his book and things he said in the Oprah interview.

      I don't know a thing about the organization so I deliberately stayed away from even mentioning it. It may be like Komen, a figurehead and a shell of an organization where the leaders fly around in private jets and most of the money is funneled back into "awareness" campaigns that do nothing. Or, maybe it is not and it does true work in helping to fund and research cancer. I don't know, wouldn't guess, and this article is not about the Livestrong Organization, so you completely missed the point.

      I do know if a leader of any cancer organization is stumped by the question "Oh, you have breast cancer, you're lucky it's not worse" than doesn't know how to reply, they probably should not be coming to some little blogger to admit that.

      Delete
  17. I'll be sharing this everywhere I can. Thank you for saying what I think too. You did it so well here. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  18. This was one of your best columns ever Ann. Now I'm off to vote for you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. You absolutely hit the nail on the head, Ann. I couldn't have said it better myself. I was given more than one copy of Lance's book and came to the same conclusion as you. I've tried to explain it to people but, God love then, my friends and family can't handle the truth. I wish they could read your post. I too have breast cancer with extensive liver as well as bone mets. They aren't ready for your honesty. I guess a little bit of me isn't ready either. I won't say I'm not strong enough for the truth, because I know what strength is to people like us who use so much just to take a shower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry your family isn't there with you yet. None of our families want to be but I've made mine listen. They need to know that this is horrible but I'm okay, that I know they will go on to productive lives without me, they'll miss me but I'll be in their hearts, their gestures, that the love I have for them cannot die. It's not like it's a daily conversation or anything, and a 15 year old kid doesn't need that thought in his mind constantly. But it's the hand we were dealt and I see it as my job to play it so that it comes out best for them.

      Delete
    2. Where have i been? i just saw your reply.

      I see your point Ann and will have to think about it. I don't know how far I should go to prepare them given the significant mental and physical illnesses family members are also coping with.

      I come from a stoic line of women and I think I want my girl to believe that she too can survive anything, even dying. Know what I mean? But I can see there are other messages she also needs to hear from me before its too late ~ Kate

      Delete
  20. Well stated, as others have said. I'll be thinking of you today, and thinking about how much I admire your writing. I hope today is a good day, and I am still voting daily for your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  21. thanks ann - this post is exactly what I was thinking when someone gave me the 'ol "look at lance" when I was going through treatment. I actually looked up his type of cancer because I didn't understand (even being diagnosed with BC myself) how he could be cured with metasis to brain/lungs -after much research I realized that not all mets are the same and that testicular mets have a good chance at being cured. His attitude had nothing to do with it, he was just on the right side of the stats. This attitude that so many people have that if we "fight" just stay "positive" and its a "mental" as much as a physical battle is all BS -I want to scream whenever people tell me "a positive attitude is the most important thing".

    ReplyDelete
  22. The only thing I disagree with you is when mentioning Lance you alluded that he was, " some remarkable athlete survived a very survivable cancer." In no way is Lance remarkable. He has lied and cheated and caused great shame to his sport and to the cancer community. You, my dear, are the remarkable one.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ann, This post just might your best yet, Ann. It's astounding. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  24. the Lance Armstrong debacle has overshadowed any credibility he had as a "role model" for cancer patients. Its sad that his organization will now be scrutinized because of his deeds.I truly believe in the LIVESTRONG organization and pray THEY will SURVIVE despite his choices.
    Anne you are so special, I enjoy your perspective and honesty!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Angela Vrettos RayherJanuary 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Loved your article Ann. Thanks for writing it with humor, truth and a great attitude! My sister died 2 yrs ago of Metastatic Breast Cancer 10 months after being diagnosed (early detection). The drs never said it was terminal and my sister had an absolute survivor's attitude about it. Yet still she died. Lance is an idiot and a disgrace to America and anyone who's ever had cancer. Thank you for writing and keeping up your positive attitude.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love the broad strokes of reality you bring to your writing and to your life.
    You do us all an honor by speaking so very truthfully.

    For those of us still here, and those of us who are not (and not for lack of trying), I thank you.

    You are one brave, honest, funny and fabulous lady. You rock!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Ann - SusieQ here. I want to get our copy of Lance Armstrong's book and tear it up or even organise a book burning ceremony. I remember when my husband had bowel cancer and then lung mets (now cured), he read the book and was so inspired. I feel he has been cheated. We defended him right up until the end. We could not believe anyone who had gone through what he had would use drugs to enhance his performance. Now the bubble has burst and we should destroy his book. For me to say that is remarkable as I revere books like you would never imagine.

    BTW - I voted for your blog. Seems like you can vote every day - I will try to do that for you.

    Sue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear bookstores are no moving it from autobiography to fiction sections. LOL. :)

      I don't know, the help you gained from that book still exists, even if the man is a liar, doesn't it? Maybe it should be filed away in lessons learned category. From no won, look inside yourself for inspiration. You are as strong as anybody else.

      Delete
  28. You do rock Ann. Thank you so much for this well written post. I had no idea how deep the lies went. Wish I had found your blog before my stage IV sentence, I love your sarcastic honesty and admire your fortitude.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Oh boy, this one struck me to the heart. Thank you for sharing your journey. I appreciate it. So hard to hear but so helpful for others in your situation, and those who love them. I wish you could live forever. :) Much love, -P

    ReplyDelete
  30. YES!!!!

    I read a stupid Dr. Mercola article they other day that said we can cure cancer by thinking it away (basically), and the drug companies are keeping this from us so they can make a profit.

    So many people just don't get it!

    Thanks Ann!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That drug company "Big Pharma" story is pervasive. Somehow, conspiracy theorists think that a cure is withheld so we will keep spinning our wheels and spending money on treatments that only line their pockets. All I can say to that is those people have a deeply flawed understanding of the complexity of cancer as well as the business world. And, they don't understand how that hurts us when we learn our cancer is progressing despite following one of these magic treatments.

      I always thank people who share these with me because they mean well, but I tell them (which is true) I only do what my doctor recommends. I am pure science in my medical approach as is my oncologist. That doesn't mean adding mind/body stuff to the mix is wrong, many of it is helpful in our day-to-day lives. But as a cure? No.

      Delete
  31. I have thought the same thing about Lance--how he has set this impossible standard for those of us living with incurable metastatic breast cancer. Thank you for saying it so well.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I loved your message Ann! I think your writing is impacting many.
    Thank you. Cathy Cepress

    ReplyDelete
  33. Ann, anyone who tells you "Look at Lance" needs a swift kick in the ass. What a disgusting and insensitive thing to say. You rock and this world will be a much worse place without you, plain and simple.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Pardon my southern accent but Mr A doesn't deserve to be in the same paragraph as you, nor for that matter, any other cancer sufferer, god forgive me.

    Well done in all your trials; you wear it well.

    Much love to you and yours

    Lyndadoll xx

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh lovelovelove you!!! Going to vote for you right now. My husband is Stage IV lung with mets to the entire spine, pelvis, and now the lymphatic system. Seriously, Big Love to you, Deborah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deborah, my heart goes out to you and your husband. Here's hoping treatment is easy on him and he is as pain-free as possible. Stay strong!

      Delete
  36. Great blog. I voted and shared it with friends. Would you please add my blog to your list? It is www.canceremotions.wordpress.com.
    Patsy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do link exchanges so if you add me I'd be happy to add you.

      Delete
  37. A remarkably brilliant post from a truly remarkable brilliant woman. Brava!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Well said, Ann! An excellent post.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm so glad to have found you. You write how I feel and no one understands. My cancer blog:
    http://vlynn-livingwithcancer.blogspot.com/
    I haven't kept up with much lately but you can see where I am in this journey.
    I have had a really hard time with what you wrote about - people telling me I just need to fight hard and have a positive attitude and I'll get well. Finding you is very helpful. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked it out and see you are metastatic too - bones? I'm so sorry. Maybe starting your blog up again will help you sort through feelings, and maybe help your loved ones know what they can say to make you feel better.

      Delete
  40. Ann you really said the truth. I hated when people said to my brother that he could go in to remission and if he fought hard enough.....He had stage IV inoperable esophageal cancer with 30 mets and we made the most of the eight months we had with him. People also have no idea how difficult breast cancer treatment is with the hope of being in the 70% usually after early stage of primary chemo and tons of surgery. Then you go down the line of drugs and more surgery, tests, anxiety, and everything that goes with it. I admire you #fearless friend and those people just need to be ignored because they are ignorant. Thank you for always saying the truth. This post is spot on. You deserve to win the contest, but you know you are a winner anyway. XoXoXo - Susan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, I'm so sorry about your brother. I am glad you were able to make your remaining time with him meaningful.

      Delete
  41. Thank You for sharing your insights. I am taking a closer look at cancer and I am fighting back. I am personally carrying a defective A-T gene.(ATM) This defective gene is responsible for an increased risk of breast cancer, many other kinds of cancer and a brutal disease called Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T for short). My Grandfather died during surgery for Lung Cancer, my Uncle died from Spine Cancer, my Aunt died from Ovarian Cancer and my Dad died from Kidney Cancer that metastasized to his bones. My son died from complications of A-T. atcp.org I still believe in miracles and I am praying for a MIRACLE for YOU!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pamela, I'm stunned at all the tragedy you have had to go through. Especially your son, which is something no mother should experience. I am amazed at your strength. I will look up the A-T gene defect, I've never heard of it. Big hugs to you, my friend.

      Delete
  42. Interesting what comments you choose not to post, Ann...makes me sad, as does everything about all of this, but I think I understand why...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, not sure what you mean, entirely, as comments are automatic, but yes, cancer and all of this is very sad.

      Delete
  43. I totally agree with everything you said about Lance Armstrong. Your attitude is amazing but it makes me said because I lost two sisters to cancer and they both were in denial until the very end, so many words could have been said that were not. Voted for your blog, it is the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm really so sorry to hear about your sisters. It must be heartbreaking as well as nerve-wracking for you. Cancer seems to touch so many. :(

      Delete
  44. Ann, I know you are dying. But it's a reality that is so hard for me to face. So when I say something like "mind over matter" I'm so sorry to hurt you. I said it more for me than you. I don't mean to be insensitive, you mean far too much to me to want to hurt you or lose you. My biggest wish is that I could really do something that would make a difference and keep you here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alexus, I don't even remember you saying that, so you didn't hurt me. And, none of my friends could hurt me no matter what they say, because I know they mean well. There is a difference between writing generally and writing specifically. Nothing I say on this blog is ever directed at one individual in my life.

      My hope is that people understand that while some cancer patients go to their deaths always believing they can be cured, others face the reality that they won't. The trick for a friend is to allow the person experiencing something like this do it their way.

      But nobody is perfect, although you are close! :)

      Delete
  45. Always on point with your posts.
    Love the wisdom. Wit & insight throughout your blot.
    Voting for you every day I can remember!
    hugzzzzzzzz

    ReplyDelete
  46. "All great movements turn into businesses, and eventually degenerate into rackets"......Eric Hoffer. This seems to be true about so many organizations. What starts out as an altruistic, wonderful movement so many times turns into a way for some folks to pocket big money, and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Cancer patients must have faith in something bigger than themselves in order to have a fighting chance of survival. This belief may often fly in the face of reason, and become something like denial, but I think it is a necessary stage in the fight against this deadly disease.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I stumbled upon your blog through Soul Pancake... my goodness.. Lance Armstrong has nothing on you!... last week I lost a life long friend to metasticized colon cancer... I watched him battle this for nearly 8 years.. I told him.. I demanded of him ( not really).. that we celebrate our 50th birthdays together.. much like we celebrated a few of our childhood birthdays together... and we did.. we had an amazing party surrounded my family and good friends.. I was so happy for him to have that moment... a little over a month ago he stopped all treatment... nothing was working.. he knew like you .. what was going on.. he opted to have quality over quantity... after his warrior like battle.. he never complained or asked why me... when his oldest sister died 16 months ago of mets lung cancer .. he did ask why not him.. ??? he was one of the bravest people I have ever known.. and reading your post.. I see you are in that league too.. I wish you peace and joy.. and ease of pain .. for whatever your time is here.. may it be burdenless and filled with smiles that keep your heart warm... what an amazing person you are.. I am going to read more of your words.. I have lost many to this horrible disease in many forms.. my father was a prostate cancer survivor prior to his death in a car accident... my husband is a prostate cancer survivor...I will add you to my prayers.. thank you for putting such on point words out there... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Ann,
    I walked with my dear friend Kim while she dealt with metastatic breast cancer until her premature death at 40 last year.

    Both of us were diagnosed at 38 with breast cancer, finishing chemo at the same time, but her triple negative cancer returned, in her brain and liver.

    Kim was very intelligent, a professor in fact, and she knew what all this meant, but as she put it, everyday is a choice, and in order to smile, she believed it was possible for her to keep going despite reality.

    Being a physician myself it was very difficult to keep the facade of "beating" metastatic triple negative breast cancer going, but I believed if anyone was going to out live the "average survival" numbers it would be Kim.

    One day though, and only when the topic came up, I said to her, you know, you can have a good death, and I briefly explained some of the medications to her, and she later called me that day and thanked me for this, that it was more meaningful than I knew.

    I'll never forget that or Kim. And while I may have said a few things right she changed my life and strengthened my resolve, as you have with your writing. How? Because, I never had a positive attitude through my cancer. I never had the luxury of believing that my odds were so good that it would never come back. Knowing what I knew going in to breast cancer was a curse.
    I immediately put myself at "deaths door" I was determined to "do the work". That is, deal with my own fear of death. Most of my fear I realized was leaving my three little girls, then 2, 5, and 7. It took 2 years of soul searching, reading, but more importantly through you and Kim I was able to find hope, not hope that I would "survive", but hope that when my time comes I will be able to die with courage and dignity, and without fear.

    Thank you for being able to face this with honesty, for showing us how to live, and for giving people living or in treatment for cancer permission to feel however they need to, instead of placing that universal pressure to "always keep smiling", which "can cure anything".


    ReplyDelete
  50. dc therapy in india - Thank you so much for your article. I have a very close friend whoes mom with metastatic breast cancer. She is the strongest person I know but her cancer is still incurable. Keep writing. I am sure you are helping more people than you know.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Ann, I love everything you write. you have made a powerful difference in my life. i would go so far as to say you haved podssibly saved my life. The story is long and i ramble but even after all you had done to help me, this post answered the question that I have been obseessing about for most of my life [i am autistic. obsessing is what we do] You wrote "Life is not all about winning or losing.sometimes it is about how you play the game, even when you are destined to lose."
    your words answered my biggest life question [long story, but I have obsessed with the question since well before my diagnosis]
    I wish i could convey how thankful I am for you. You, along with Mother teresa of Calcutta and Temple Grandin are the three people in life I most admire and respect. I love you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Mother Teresa or Temple Grandin, but thank you very much for such kind words.

      Delete
  52. I love it when people don't beat around the bush, as we say in the South, but get right to it and speak the truth about a matter. Ann, your writing is top-notch and I am always amazed at how you manage to do it so well, knowing all that you are going through. If that doesn't put you in the blog contest lead, I don't know what could. Good luck on winning, and thanks for sharing these days with us.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I concur and I appreciate the article, which I hope someone publishes in a magazine read by millions ... and I also hope someone pays you a crap load of money for writing something so real so well. Voting every day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only way I can get money these days is the Healthline Contest, so please vote! Information at the bottom of each post.

      Delete
  54. This is such an amazing post. I'm Stage IV with bone and (newly diagnosed this week) brain mets. I feel almost like I'm letting people down when I'm not upbeat and positive about what's eventually going to happen to me. Thanks for so eloquently stating how I've felt!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry about your diagnosis. You need to go through what you need to go through. There will be a lot of pressure on you to "fight" and a lot of denial about your situation. Make sure you let the people closest to you know how to communicate with you. If the pep talks help, tell them. If it makes it harder, then tell them that too.

      Delete
  55. Stage IV inflammatory with Met to bones. Thank you for being so honest. People need to hear the truth much more often. Hugs XXXXX

    ReplyDelete
  56. Wonderfully expressed! I have chronic kidney disease and feel the same about people who believe my attitude or a miracle can regenerate my kidney cells. Your honesty is refreshing and I thank you for it!

    ReplyDelete
  57. Thank you for your post. I started checking out your blog a while ago when I was first diagnosed with stage 3c breast cancer. I remember thinking how hard it would be having to deal with all this again. About two weeks ago I found out I am metastatic to my liver and many lymph nodes now. As a 32 year old now my friends and family keep telling me to stay positive and "you're young, you can beat it" and it really frustrates me because no matter how many times I try to tell them I am NOT going to beat it they don't get it. I think you're right that they see people like Lance and think that we can all beat it if we try hard enough. It really makes me not want to even talk about it anymore and let them just find out at my funeral whether it's in 2 months or 2 years.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I was diagnosed originally with Inflammatory stage III. (50% survival rate). I never got the Lance Armstrong comparison, but I did get a lot of comparisons with people who were stage 0 or I and got sick of hearing "breast cancer is so curable now!" Just a few short months after treatment was over, cancer was found to have metastisized to the bone, so now I'm stage IV. (20% survival rate)

    The only reason to be positive is to enjoy life. If I spend it crying over my fate, I waste it.
    My own or anyone elses positive or warm thoughts will not add one day. In fact to me, assuming that by your thoughts you can help yourself or someone else get well, smacks of arrogance.
    I do believe in prayer. Prayer is appealing to God, thus Someone more powerful than yourself, not thinking that you have that kind of power.

    I do not know how long I have. My oncologist said he has a few women at stage IV that he has been treating for 10 years and one that he has been treating for 20. But, I also know that they are the exceptions. But, I like that he says I am an individual and not to worry about the statistics.
    Elizabeth

    ReplyDelete
  59. my name is Clem i have a very good kidneys and i want to give out one . for free interested person should contact me with my email.@ eclem4u@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  60. I know this was written almost a year ago but I just found it yesterday. I am a cyclist and have been following Lance since I saw a small blurb about him waaaay back when saying he had cancer. I have to admit I teared up saying Wow, he almost died from cancer and now he won the Tour de France, that is so amazing! I read all his books. My son, who is also a cyclist, was certain Lance was doping and was outspoken about it to be put down by so many people for his negative views on Lance (well before the lying store on Lance broke). Anyway what led me to comment here was your statement: The real question is: could Lance could do what I have done? Rather than 4 months from start to finish, I have finished my third year in treatment. I am on my 7th chemo and my 3rd targeted treatment. I had 3 surgeries. I have been on chemo for pretty much three straight years in a row, I have had half my liver removed, recovered from sepsis and c-diff pancolitis. And, I still pick my son up from school every day, I make dinner when I can, I do chores if possible. NO Lance could NEVER have done what you do! In fact I also remember remarking to my son after I read his book "Its not about the bike" that wow it was only 4 months from start to finish? In any case, suffering in sports is chosen suffering- you can pull out of the race and stop the "pain" at any time. I'd also like to point out there though that in Lance's book he did credit his beating of cancer to his luck in finding the best doctors and treatment facility available, that he had the resources to go find the best for himself.
    I love your blog and best wishes to you, Ill continue reading.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I agree with almost all of this, apart from you comparing the 'curability' of met. prostate cancer with the incurability of met. bc. I'm only saying this because my grandfather died when I was very young from met. pc, and although it is true that cure rates are much higher for prostate cancer than for breast cancer, it is a shame it has been so generalised in an otherwise fantastic article.
    My aunt had met. bc last year, terminal of course, and people kept saying to me, "tell her to keep strong and thing of Lance Armstrong, he had cancer". It annoyed me so much, too!
    Keep writing, but maybe don't generalise quite so much :)

    ReplyDelete