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Eleven Years. Marking Time. Again.

It’s been eleven years since my mother died from metastatic breast cancer on March 6, 2008. That’s 4,015 days. 572 weeks. 132 months. Not a day goes by that I do not think about her. Not a day goes by that I do not miss her. Not a day goes by that I do not wish I could speak with her once more.

I remember the countless good times, but I never forget the way my mother’s life ended either and the pain this horrible disease brought to my family and continues to bring to other families like mine.

I mark time every year here on the blog because how could I not?

As many of you know, my cancer story began with my mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2004, on my birthday no less.

Despite the fact that my mother was diagnosed with an early-stage, low-grade, hormone-positive breast cancer (supposedly, the good kind), it went on to metastasize in 2007. Roughly six months later, she was dead. Not gone. Not lost. Dead.

(Yes, I choose to use the “d” word(s), even if doing so makes others uncomfortable.)

Early detection, a lumpectomy and radiation were supposed to be enough. They were not.

My mother’s experience is part of what drives me still to keep writing this blog and to keep advocating for those I know/knew and those I do not who are/were impacted by a disease, regardless of stage, that is anything but pink, pretty or party-like.

Occasionally, someone implies, or even tells me directly, I should perhaps speak less about the dark sides of breast cancer, of which there are many, including metastatic disease. Doing that might make my writing less scary, more uplifting, more something.

I say, that would make it incomplete.

If I chose not to speak of mbc, I would feel like a traitor not only to my mother but to everyone else impacted by metastatic breast cancer as well – those I know/knew and those I will never know.

I will always share unvarnished truths about cancer (again, regardless of stage) and loss, well, my truths anyway. And believe it or not, I have only scratched the surface.

As I’ve said many times, I will never sugarcoat this disease. 

Headlines sometimes seem to suggest we should be celebrating. We’ve come a long way, and in some ways, we have. However, headlines can be, and often are, deceiving.

Dr. Attai, co-founder of BCSM, pulls us back to reality regarding stats and headlines in her recent post titled, Improvement in Breast Cancer Death Rates – But Much Work Remains. With her usual clarity and balance, she reminds us:

Treatments have improved, and screening mammography has made a difference. But as the US population is growing and aging (and the likelihood of breast cancer increases with age) there may be more individuals with breast cancer. Cancer incidence also increases with increased use of screening mammography (due to increased detection), but not all of these cancers are lethal. Rates of death from breast cancer decrease, but absolute numbers may not.

I bring up these last points not to put a damper on some of the glowing headlines regarding this study, but to ensure that we don’t lose focus regarding the work to be done. Approximately 40,000 women and 2,500 men will die this year due to metastatic breast cancer. We’ve made tremendous progress, but it’s not time to celebrate just yet.

Amen.

Stats are deceiving sometimes. But some offer a pretty clear picture. Such as this one:

Since my mother’s death from mbc in 2008, roughly 440,000 others have since died from metastatic breast cancer. Another 440,000 families have felt the same heartache as mine. And this is just in the US.

Every year as I mark time here on the blog, I mention the numbers to make a point, but of course, it’s not just about numbers.

It’s about faces – the dear ones behind the numbers and the families left to pick up the pieces.

Real faces. Real people. Real families grieving.

I mark time to remember, yes.

But I also mark time to remind those who will listen that much work is left to be done.

Those who are willing and those who are able must do it.

When I think about my mother these days, sometimes I’m sad. Sometimes I’m mad. Sometimes I’m scared. Sometimes I’m lonely. Sometimes I’m determined. Sometimes I’m frustrated. Sometimes I am all of these things.

But always, I’m grateful. There are so many good things and good times to remember. Many are not as lucky as me in this regard.

So, after eleven years, I mark time. Again.

I remember.

I miss you, Mother.

Love you forever.

And I promise…

#WeWillNotForget

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Who do you mark time for?

Has it ever been suggested that perhaps you should speak less about the dark sides of breast cancer?

 

11 Years. Marking Time. Again. #breastcancer #metastaticbreastcancer #advocacy #greif #loss #family #mothers #daughters #granddaughters

19 thoughts to “Eleven Years. Marking Time. Again.”

  1. I am wondering what most people use as their “anniversary date”
    I am coming up on my 5th year….but what “date” do I really use…???
    Is it 04/28/2014 when I pulled my pathology report up on my computer from my patient portal (sitting
    alone in my home office)? Is it the date of my lumpectomy (05/06/2014….? Or my last day of chemo…
    10/30/2014……or my last day of radiation….12/30/2014….???
    Just curious…..I know it is not that important…..but still curious.

  2. My dad died a year ago of bladder cancer and I miss him deeply.

    I haven’t been through a full year yet, but I’ve decided the date I most want to mark is the date of my BMX in June – which is when they cancer was removed. Not the end of chemo, since that was more of an unknown. I suspect the date a month before that when I was diagnosed will be hard, though.

    1. Secret Agent Woman, I’m sorry about your dad. I’m sure you miss him very much. My dad died two+ years ago, and sometimes I am shaken by how much I miss him. Be kind to yourself as you approach those dates. It might be hard. Or not. We’re all different here too. My best to you and thank you for commenting.

  3. Losing parents to Alzheimer’s (mom) and brain cancer (dad) their deaths seemed unusually young for our times but neither disease has enough focused attention in my mind. My mother died at 74, dad at 71. They’d been divorced by the time dad died for 40 years. Weird. I have a hard time with the combined word cancerversary because it seems like I chose to marry my cancer on the date I was diagnosed de novo stage 4. I want a divorce! I didn’t ask it to marry me and I certainly didn’t get asked.

    But I hope you’re doing okay. It’s hard enough to make peace with our own diagnosis. The death of a parent from the same disease must bring about so much conflicting feelings about mortality, as well as the simple fact of our longing for their presence in during our own suffering. I know I wish both my parents were here right now. In the Jewish religion we have a yearly day of rememberabce based on the Hebrew calendar. I light candles and say a Kaddish for my grandparents and parents on those six days. I feel closer to them as those candles burn for over 24 hours. It’s a spiritual mindful act of love. I feel better knowing I’m remembering them as they were and thanking them for being a part of me.
    They say mine’s not genetic.
    My paternal grandma died if metastatic breast cancer at 62.

    1. Ilene, Yes, it is hard sometimes to not compare my cancer to my mother’s cancer. I’m sorry both your parents have died. I love the yearly day of remembrance tradition. What a lovely thing to do, as you said, a spiritual, mindful act of love. Just beautiful. Sorry there’s been so much cancer in your family too. Thank you for reading and taking time to share. My best to you.

  4. Dates. They remain stuck in our heads forever. My mother died of mbc on Feb 13, 1980. 40 yrs ago! I was 23 yrs old. I was diagnosed Oct 26,2016. I’ve decided to count time for myself from Dec 2, 2016, the date of my first surgery. I remember my mother saying she thought the cancer had returned in her back. The doctors assured her it had not. They were wrong. She died a few short months later. My oncologist asked if she’d had a scan. I told her I had no idea what they’d done 40 yrs ago. I know she had had a mastectomy and radiation. I don’t even know if they offered chemo. One of the many questions my 23 yr old naive self never thought to ask. I know she worked hard all her life and died 6 months before she would have received her first social security check. I don’t know why this still bothers me but it does. I still miss her so much!

    1. Donna, That’s so sad about your mother. It makes perfect sense you are still bothered. And yes, we continue to miss our dear ones. I’m sorry your mother died from metastatic breast cancer too. Such a heartbreaking thing to witness. And remember forever. Thank you for sharing, Donna.

  5. Interesting… marking time. My 25 yo daughter died 11 years ago yesterday, 3/5/08…she did not die of cancer but strange neurological issues… maybe mini strokes but nothing definitive in spite of an autopsy. It is something I will never get over… something much worse, for at me at least, than my two cancer diagnoses since then… colon cancer in 2010 and breast cancer at the end of 2014…. both caught early but requiring surgeries and treatments. I wonder sometimes of the stress and pain of losing her affected my own immune system.

    1. Rita, I’m so sorry about your daughter, and of course, that is something you will never get over – nor should you. And who knows how that experience impacted your health. Many factors are involved, so it’s probably never just one thing that causes cancer. Thank you for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

  6. Nancy you’ve been nominated for your excellence in writing about cancer and your delivering consistent posts that make me think and bring me hope, see my last post on the cancer bus to accept and to see the instructions should you want to take the time to follow – I find it a way to raise awareness amongst others who may not be as intimate with breast cancer as they should. https://cancerbus.com

  7. I use all 3 dates because they only really matter to me. My diagnosis date is a blur. Feb. 16, 2017 was the end of chemo. Mar. 14, 2017 was surgery to remove my stage 3 left breast and 4 macrometastatic lymph nodes, and June 7, 2017 was the end of radiation. July 4, 2017, I started on Letrozole.

  8. I am 12 years out since my diagnosis of Stage 3 BC
    And I still fear a recurrence. It is a daily thought that consumes me and I think the more time that goes by the more fear I have. Is it inevitable it will return. Prob

    1. Terri, I’m sorry you worry so much about recurrence, but I understand. I’m hoping you have someone to speak with about this to help you find some peace. Being consumed by fear is worrisome. But again, I understand. Thank you for sharing so honestly. My best to you.

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