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Metastatic Metaphor – A Guest Post by Laurie Kingston & A Giveaway too!

By now you all know how I feel about the power of sharing our personal stories. Sharing almost always decreases feelings of loneliness, anxiety and fear. Sharing almost always increases healing along with a feeling of empowerment. Knowing you are not alone sometimes means everything. It’s why I share my story. It’s why from time to time I share the stories of others.

I’m delighted to feature a guest post written by my friend and author, Laurie Kingston. Laurie is living with a stage IV breast cancer diagnosis and shares how she the is learning to balance life and all the uncertainties that accompany a diagnosis of metastatic disease. She is the author of the book, Not Done Yet:  Living Through Breast Cancer. In her book, Laurie shares candidly about her breast cancer experience including what it was like to realize she would be living out every breast cancer patient’s “worst case scenario” – hearing the words your cancer has metastasized. Laurie’s book is engagingly honest, thoughtful, insightful, very funny and yes inspiring. I know you’ll enjoy her guest post!

Metastatic Metaphor

by Laurie Kingston

I’ve been thinking that life is like a card game. You have no control over the cards you’re dealt; but there is strategy, experience and skill that goes into playing the game.

I’m a lousy card player.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2006 and went through the gamut of treatment:  mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. It was brutal and I celebrated putting it all behind me.

In November 2006 I learned the cancer had spread to my liver – metastasized. Although my liver was “riddled with tumors”, I responded shockingly well to chemotherapy and Herceptin. By July 2007 I was in full remission, with a scarred liver but absolutely no sign of cancer.

The remission lasted for more than five years. I stopped chemotherapy but continued Herceptin. There was even talk of being “cured.” Then in October 2012, I asked for a brain MRI because my kind of cancer (Her2+) has a special affinity for the brain and I’d learned that many women with Her2+ cancer eventually develop brain tumors.

I found out I had a 3 cm lesion on my cerebellum.

My medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon all advised different treatments. I listened, tried to find research (there is very little) and thought through my options. The night before I was to make my decision, a woman I knew online sent me a video from a session on brain metastasis at a Metastatic Breast Cancer Network conference. I watched a neurosurgeon review the science and advise the very route that already felt the best to me.

I had surgery last November, followed by cyber knife radiation in January. It hasn’t been easy but seven months later, aside from a little soreness and stiffness in my neck, I feel stronger and fitter than I have in years.

A little luck, a little knowledge, a little strategy; all have factored into my card game.

I’m struggling with how to live my life now – how to balance caution and worry with enjoying all the good things that life can offer. I must remain vigilant but I can’t be paralyzed by fear.

I want very much to live in the moment but also to pace myself and be responsible with my health and finances because I may be lucky enough to live a long time.

I’m learning to distinguish between the expression of healthy sadness and anger and the kind that holds me back, keeps me from moving forward.

I’m trying to appreciate past successes and make amends for failings without bogging myself down with regret and sadness over missed opportunities.

I’m attempting to understand when to advocate for myself and accept that complaining does not need to be punitive, nor does it make me a bad person. Conversely, I need to know when to let things go because life is too short.

And I hope desperately to keep living – being this flawed, constantly growing and changing person for as long as I possibly can.

Right now, there are no drugs that will protect my brain, in the way Herceptin has protected the rest of me. I just have to remain vigilant and hope that whatever happens next, there will be newer and better options to treat my cancer.

These are the cards I’ve been dealt.

It’s up to me to figure out how to play them wisely.

Are you living with metastatic breast cancer or do you know someone who is/was?

Have you ever been told you are cured?

Have you experienced cyber knife radiation treatment or do you know someone who has?

For a chance to win your FREE copy of Not Done Yet:  Living Through Breast Cancer, simply leave a comment by noon on Sunday, August 11th and you’re in! Good luck to those who enter! Note:  This particular giveaway is open only to those living in North America.

About the Author

Laurie Kingston is the author of Not Done Yet:  Living Through Breast Cancer, published by Women’s Press in 2009. She lives in Ottawa, Canada with her two handsome sons, a hairy little dog and her husband, who is both hairy and handsome. She also writes a blog called, Not Just About Cancer.  To purchase Laurie’s book, contact her via her blog. It’s also available as a kobo ebook  at http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/not-done-yet

38 thoughts on “Metastatic Metaphor – A Guest Post by Laurie Kingston & A Giveaway too!

  1. Laurie thank you for writing your book & thank you Nancy for bringing it to my attention. I was also diagnosed with HER2 + BC in Jan 2013. I am still in treatment and still have some surgeries ahead of me. I also think of mets, etc. Good luck to you. Hugs!!!

    1. Tracey, Her2+ breast cancer is infinitely more treatable than it was, even a decade ago. That much is very good news. I hope your treatment is successful and that you get to put this all behind you very soon. Regardless, please feel free to stay in touch. Sending you a very big virtual hug-
      Laurie

  2. Nancy – thank you for adding Laurie’s post today.
    Laurie – thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on mbc. I too am a lousy card player, but continue to play and do enjoy the occasional victory. I am living with liver mets and have had great success with tamo. Although the lesions are still there, they are currently stable.
    I wish you continued well being and look forward to reading more of your story. May we all learn to strategize and play our cards wisely.

    1. Barb, I like the metaphor Laurie used a lot. We all need to figure out our own individual best strategy for whatever cards we’ve been dealt don’t we? I’m glad you’re having good success with Tamoxifen. Currently stable is a very good thing. Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re in the drawing! Best to you.

  3. Living with mets is definitely a chanllenge. The moto at our house is one day at a time and flexibility. It’s hard with little ones at home but we do what we must! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cynthia, That’s a darn good motto and yes, coping with all of this with little ones in the house is even more challenging. We do what we must – another darn good motto. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Laurie–You do a great job of describing some of the mental and emotional challenges of living with metastatic breast cancer. So glad your online friend was there with information when you needed it! And also glad that MBCN is doing the valuable work they are doing! Best wishes in your continued journey.

  5. Thanks Laurie for sharing your story. I find it insightful, and it’s giving me a bit of hope too since spots were recently found on my lungs. I’m grateful to you for sharing your story. And Nancy, I’m grateful to you as well for having this space and bringing in your guest bloggers.

    Thank you, ladies.
    ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, I am thinking about you so often… And yes, I love guest bloggers because I love sharing stories. Thanks so much for commenting.

  6. Hi Laurie, Thank you for sharing this. Your story is inspiring.i have been recently diagnosed (6 mos.) with ER+ and bone mets. I am trying to come to grips with everything struggling with all the same things you talked about. I hope to someday also be in “remission” and live a long full life and try not to dwell on the “glass half empty”
    Julia

    1. Julia, I’m sorry about your recent diagnosis. You certainly have a lot to come to grips and yes, Laurie understands a lot of what you are going through. My best to you as you move forward through all this. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Hi Nancy
        I was wondering if you could please remove my posts from your blog. It comes up when I search my name and would prefer it removed since my email has my full name. Thank you so much!

  7. Thank you Nancy for sharing Laurie’s post. What an incredible story Laurie. It’s interesting that with all of these articles coming out about DCIS, it’s clear you had the right treatment. I admire you for being your own advocate and reading the little research that talked about brain mets. You made sure your doctors tested you and you found the problem. You have been through so much. I admire how you are living with the cards you have been dealt with very wisely! Hugs!

    1. Susan, Being one’s own best advocate is always so important isn’t it? Laurie’s story is pretty amazing and she’s helping many by sharing her story. Thanks for commenting.

  8. What strikes me as I read these comments is what they all have in common – so much hope, strength and resolve. I do think we help to get each other through.

  9. Thank you Nancy for highlighting Laurie’s post. Thank you Laurie for sharing your story. I have a friend recently diagnosed with mets. She helped me when I had my mastectomy and now I want to be there for her. Your book sounds like a good read for both of us.

    1. Mae, You sound like a very dear friend. Hope things go well for her and you as well. Thanks for reading and for entering the giveaway. Good luck!

  10. I got a phone call from my friend Jan a couple years ago. She said she had a weird lump under her collar bone, thought it might be cat scratch fever. It was not, it was her breast cancer returning. Before long Jan was taking Tycurb to deal with the mets to her brain. Jan fought the good fight, she was brave and hopeful to the end, but the end did come all too soon. She went thru heavens gates in January of 2013. I so wanted us to be sisters in survival, instead I’m a survivor with a broken heart. Jan is representative of so many lost too young, too soon. For myself, I worry constantly about recurrence of my own HER 2 inflammatory BC, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t think any of us ever push it totally out of our thoughts. So we live, we love, we wait and we hurt, but I think we are ever hopeful.

    1. Mari, I’m so sorry about your friend. It’s incredibly difficult to lose those dear friends and yes, there are too many losses. I understand your thoughts and worries about recurrence. I have them as well. Thank you for sharing and for entering the giveaway. Take care.

  11. Nancy, thank you for giving Laurie a platform to guest post on your blog.

    Laurie, this is an excellent post, and I really love your spin on the “playing the hands you are dealt” saying. You do, indeed, play them wisely. Good for you for advocating for yourself and leading doctors to find your brain tumor.

    The whole post was terrific, but I love this line: “I must remain vigilant but I can’t be paralyzed by fear.” You are right. You have to enjoy the life that you have, but not let your guard down. Such a difficult balance.

    I hope you live a long, healthy life, Laurie.

    1. Beth, That line of Laurie’s you mention is powerful and so important. Sometimes finding the balance is hard, but still that’s what we all try to do. Thanks for reading and commenting, Beth.

  12. Hi and thank you for both your blog and the opportunity to win this book. I am currently fighting both breast and stage IV colon cancer for the last 3+ years. Any and every thing I can read that does not make me feel alone in this war is somuch appreciated!

    1. Annette, I’m sorry about all you must deal with. That’s an awful lot. I’m glad you find that reading anything and everything you can helps. Knowing you aren’t alone always makes a difference. Thanks for commenting. Good luck in the giveaway!

  13. Lots of good wisdom in here, things that until now, have just been on the edge of my consciousness. I have a friend who was a heavy smoker until she got lung cancer 15 years ago. She knew that many times lung cancer spreads to the brain, so after lung surgery, she had her brain radiated as a preventative measure. Now she exercises, is careful what she eats, and enjoys life. She’s been in remission 15 years now. I pray that you’ll have the same kind of success.

  14. I’d like to read more. Great analogy and true. 2 yrs since my BC & MBC dx. . . Not an easy adjustment because it is about constant adjustment to the way I function with side effects and for me that’s been with new meds every 3-6 months since: original poison, slash & burn. If it were just me (my husband and extended family) i think it may be easier but life with (almost) 2.5 yr old twin boys is a challenge as is. . . I didn’t even know these cards were in the deck but I’ve become a quick learner (Of note: I also appreciate despite the challenge that my boys bring to our life they keep me going and motivated in a way that could not otherwise be replicated.)

    Despite all the differences in our (women & men living with MBC) stories and in our “medical cases” there are often similarities or relatable themes we experience and yet much to learn from one another! Thanks for sharing your story Laurie, both via the book and as it continues in your blog.

    Nancy, thanks for the guest post and YOUR CONTINUED hard work: advocating, sharing, bring together and maintaining community, & educating. I “share” with others from you often!

    1. Jen, You are dealing with so much – I can’t even begin to imagine the challenges you face on a daily basis. I love the way you said despite the challenge your boys provide a motivation like nothing else. I completely agree that there is so much to learn from one another. This is why I love hosting guest posts from time to time. Sharing is so important. I can’t say that often enough. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. And thanks for the kind words about my blog. They mean so much.

  15. Great post, Laurie & Nancy. Laurie, you may be particularly interested in some very intriguing & promising research on a kind of chemo-prevention for HER2 brain mets that METAvivor.org is helping to fund. I wrote post about it for the METAvivor blog early this year. It’s actually about time we check in with the lead researcher for an update. Here’s the link: http://metavivor-blog.com/blog/2013/01/30/treatment-for-brain-mets-a-metavivor-research-grant/

    Much luck & wisdom & joy & years, Laurie.

    Kathi

    1. Kathi, Thanks so much for sharing that link. I had forgotten about that particular post you wrote. I love those two words “promising research” – there’s so much hope in them.

  16. What a wonderful and inspiring post Nancy, thanks for sharing. Laurie, thank you also for sharing and writing about your journey. I am also a lousy card player but I try to live one day at a time and just continue to be grateful and have a positive mindset of the days ahead. I wish for your continued recovery, milestones and wonderful time with your family.

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