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“The Storm Cloud” by Abigail Johnston – A #MetsMonday Featured Post

I’m pleased to share the next piece in my #MetsMonday Featured Post series. This one comes from friend and fellow blogger, Abigail Johnston. Many of you will “recognize” Abigail as her online presence is certainly making an impact. Thank you, Abigail, for sharing your voice on Nancy’s Point. Be sure to scroll all the way down and share a comment or ask Abigail a question.

The Storm Cloud

by Abigail Johnston

It’s Spring Break, 2019. As I write this, my almost four-year-old son woke me up earlier than the others. We’re staying at the beach with family to celebrate the time the kiddos have off from school. My youngest son’s needs are simple. He still needs a bit of help in the bathroom, and he needs his breakfast—after some snuggles.

Before anyone starts thinking I’m Betty Crocker, all I did was put his frozen pancakes in the toaster.

See, what I mean?

Simple.

Having alone time with either of my boys is a rarity, and I’m acutely aware I spent more alone time with my eldest before our second and last child came along. So, I grab moments alone with the little guy whenever possible. Whenever he’s sitting still is also a novelty, so there’s that too.

I can think of hundreds of mornings so very similar to this. Lazy Saturdays, when there is no school or we’ve planned very little for the day. The slow start to the day used to be a luxury, something I had to plan for amidst juggling a household, a business, a career, volunteering and all of the other balls that are necessary to juggle in the midst of raising children.

Now, whenever there isn’t school, this is MY norm. Hanging with the boys (the aforementioned nearly four year old and my newly turned six year old), making sure their needs are met and enjoying, most of the time, the quality time with them while they still want me around. I hear that ends at some point, so I’m soaking up the cuddles.

From one side of the home away from home, we can see the beach, from the other, the bay. Each night, we can see the sunset over the water and each morning, the sunrise over the beach. Despite the really amazing location, the beach is nearly devoid of other people. We have seen one or two other beachcombers, but no one comes near us, and we stay away from them as well.

Sounds idyllic, right?

It’s definitely one of my top five vacations.

The boys have built and destroyed multiple sandcastles. My six year old has mastered the art of riding waves on a boogie board that is significantly taller than him. The boys rode roller coasters for the first time at Legoland, and we went down a bunch of water slides, despite the freezing water temperatures! We walked about five miles, according to my Apple Watch. We’ve eaten some pretty good food and enjoyed a few sweets we’d normally forgo. We’ve connected and reconnected with family and friends.

BUT…

There’s a storm cloud over the experiences, and I don’t mean the weather.

You see, I’ve just passed my two-year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. I wouldn’t find out until June of 2017 that the correct diagnosis was Stage IV metastatic breast cancer from the beginning.

So, two years ago, I was still planning for the scheduled lumpectomy and hoping and praying to avoid chemo and just get on with our lives. Now, I wish I had that to worry about—chemo was an experience with a beginning and an end point. The middle sucked pretty awfully, yet, it was finite and I counted down.

Now, I only count up as treatment will never end. But continuing to take my targeted therapy means I’m still stable, a good thing.

Living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer has literally changed every single aspect of my life. All those balls I was juggling when I was diagnosed, I purposefully dropped most of them.

Yep, you read that right. I dropped most of the balls I was juggling—ON PURPOSE.

Now, rather than a career and clients and responsibilities to others, my day is framed by school drop-off and pick-up times. Now, rather than arguing in court, I argue with my six and three year old (they are much better negotiators that many of the adults I’ve known). Now, rather than taking care of myself last, I have to take care of myself first. Now, rather than pushing through the aches and pains of growing older, I rest when I need to and listen to my body. Now, rather than going to the doctor once a year (maybe), I have an entire team of doctors spanning many specialties, and I’m in a doctor’s office multiple times a week.

This new life is very far from what I experienced before cancer and despite the fact that we live with the dark storm cloud of my truncated life expectancy hovering overhead, there is unexpected joy.

The dividends from taking care of myself are many. Spending time with my children, I’ve found, has rewards far beyond my expectations. Rather than chasing elusive goals and often putting up with people that I wasn’t wild about, now I intentionally spend time with people who support and lift me up as much as I do the same for them.

My learned skill of compartmentalizing various parts of my life or day from others has come in pretty darn handy.

I’ve got an ironclad box in my mind where I can usually put and keep the cancer and 2-3 year life expectancy and friends’ deaths and progressions and fighting with insurance companies and doctors’ offices, etc.

Most of that stays there—until it can’t any longer.

When it bubbles over, there are a variety of things that sustain me, including and especially, my faith in God.

Instead of looking back and mourning what has been lost, I have found contentment in looking forward while embracing the here and now. This isn’t easy or automatic, and I often have to remind myself to look up, to look forward, to breathe deeply and to focus.

I don’t know how much more time I will have with my family, my husband, my children.

But despite that storm cloud, I am determined to make the most of it, for as long as I possibly can.

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Are you living under the “storm cloud”, too, or do you know someone who is? If yes, what helps you compartmentalize?

Do you have a comment or question for Abigail?

Have you had to change or end your career due to cancer (any stage)?

Bio: Abigail is a 40-year-old wife and mother living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and two sons. After her diagnosis, Abigail closed her successful law practice. She now spends her time with her family, advocates for more research and recruits lawyers to provide pro bono legal services for stage IV metastatic breast cancer patients. Be sure to visit Abigail’s blog, No Half Measures, and then don’t forget to like her blog’s Facebook page and the Connect IV Legal Services Facebook page as well. Follow Abigail on Twitter too!
The Storm Cloud by Abigail Johnston - A #MetsMonday Featured Post #metastaticbreastcancer #mbc #breastcancer #cancer #advocacy
Abigail with her three special guys
The Storm Cloud - A #MetsMonday Featured Post by Abigail Johnston #metastaticbreastcancer #breastcancer #advocacy #mbc #stage4

10 thoughts to ““The Storm Cloud” by Abigail Johnston – A #MetsMonday Featured Post”

  1. It’s difficult to put things in boxes. Especially when everything changes including the boxes themselves when a stage 4 diagnosis squashes our lives like a big anvil out of the sky might squash Elmer Fudd. Except we’re not self healing cartoon characters that can re-inflate our flattened lives. So I suppose with stage 4, it’s difficult for me at least, to compartmentalize the many areas of my life. Family relationships, friendship, work, financial matters, and everything else that makes up a life rarely escape the impact of metastatic cancer. The things that once seemed very important no longer hold that much value, while intangible things like memories, experiences, love, and hope take up the value of money (as it relates to material objects not supporting our medical requirements), things, status, ego, and how one fits in with normal society matter far less. The fleeting satisfaction of buying a new pair of jeans does not give us joy, but the building of sandcastles brings out wondrous curiosity and interesting creativity that satisfies our soul. Especially when with our children. Life becomes more precious than the salary of a well paying job. Although I do miss my career, which spanned years developing a respectable reputation with many good relationships across a diverse group of intelligent creative people who helped shape the technological inventions that we all use today. I’m truly proud of those achievements. So, I suppose I’ve boxed up my past and put it away in a dusty attic in my mind, and I take it down sometimes and look at the plans, innovations, and former companies I worked for and with. It’s the friends I made along the way who mean more than the financial value created while working together.

    We’re all in a different space and we’ve become mortality mirrors that people don’t necessarily want to see themselves in…expressing the fear of the end of life that most people aren’t ready to discuss or even think about. We must accept our human frailties and the precious gift of this short time in the conscious plane of human existence.

  2. This post truly lifted me up. What a brave and courageous person you are!!!
    May God bless you and your lovely family

  3. As a woman living with Stage 4 MBC for the past 8.5 years, i can truly empathize with you Abigail. Although, my de novo diagnosis didn’t arrive until I was 65 years old & recently retired from a 45 year nursing career. My grown children already have children of their own. So i have experienced more of life and its various milestones. But I encourage you to continue on this path you’ve chosen. You clearly have your priorities in the right order!
    You must remain the #1 focus if you are to be a loving & caring wife and mother for as long as possible. I have been known to say, ‘If you can’t put more years into your life, put more life into your years. Stay the course my metsister…for you will reap more joys than many who are still on the career, work, family merry-go-round that demands more than they can often juggle.

    1. You are sooooo right! I don’t regret the time I spent building my career because all of that informs who I am and what I can now contribute. However, the very first thought I had when I was told I was metastatic was that I want to spend as much time as possible with my guys. That first, gut instinct has proven to be spot on. Love and light to you!!

  4. What an uplifting post, Abigail. It’s so wonderful to hear that you are taking care of yourself, and finding unexpected joy despite your diagnosis. I have also been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and, like you, I try to focus on the things that bring me joy. I suppose my version of compartmentalising is that I always tend to focus on the present moment and have never had any specific expectations (or worries) for the future. Whenever I stopped enjoying something (a job, for instance), I would simply move on to pastures new. How wonderful it would be if I could do that with breast cancer!!

    1. Yes!! Priorities are so much clearer now. We know how short life truly is and how important it is to follow our hearts to what is the most important. It’s a valuable wake up call with such gigantic downsides. Love and light to you.

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