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Ten Years. Marking Time. Again.

One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when we ushered in 2018, was gosh, it’s ten years since Mother died. Ten years. A whole decade. One-tenth of a century. 120 months. 520 weeks. 3,650 days. That old cliche, it still feels like yesterday fits. So does that other one, it seems like a lifetime ago. Both are true.

It’s been ten years.

Ten years feels different. I feel the heaviness of this particular milestone. Ten years. That’s a decent chunk of time.

I’ve been thinking about how to best mark time this year. I mark time every year here on the blog. How could I not?

But how do I mark ten years?

Sometimes I wonder if I’d be looking at my breast cancer experience through a completely different lens if my mother had not died from this wretched disease. Would I be more inclined to embrace the pink shenanigans? Would I be more oblivious to my own risk of recurrence? Would I be advocating quite as hard for those I know and those I do not who live with metastatic disease? Would hearing breast cancer being casually framed as a gift or an opportunity for enlightenment rile me up as much as it does?

I like to think my views and advocacy work would be pretty much the same, even if my mother had not had breast cancer at all. But who really knows?

Not like it matters. It is what it is. I am who I am.

It’s been ten years.

My mother died from metastatic breast cancer on March 6, 2008. She had received her initial, early-stage diagnosis mere days after first finding her lump on my birthday in 2004. Yeah, cancer is a f***ing bastard in oh-so-many ways.

We “caught it” early. I always think that phrase, caught it early, sounds cavalier. It’s not like you capture cancer, contain it in a jar like a lightning bug and watch it be snuffed out. If only.

A lumpectomy and radiation were supposed to be enough to “beat” (another trite, inadequate word) my mother’s early-stage cancer. They weren’t. When she was diagnosed, we didn’t yet know about her BRCA2 gene mutation, much less my own. Would knowing when she was diagnosed have made a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, that knowledge came later. Her cancer metastasized in the fall of 2007. Before the next spring arrived, she was gone dead.

Cancer is a thief. A brutal taker of loved ones, and I hate it.

It’s been ten years.

I don’t mark time to garner sympathy. I don’t need or want that. I mark time to honor my mother and all those stolen by metastatic breast cancer. There are so many. Too many, just too many. I mark time to share my cancer truths. I mark time to shed a bit more light on a disease that is anything but pink, pretty or party-like. I mark time to once again shout from my keyboard that we need more $$$ for research specific to metastatic disease – everything about it.

It’s been ten years.

This means roughly 400,000 more women and men have died from metastatic breast cancer. 400,000 more families have since lost dear ones. It’s a staggering number, don’t you agree?

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

It’s about the faces, the dear ones, behind the numbers. And the families that are left to pick up the pieces. 

A lot of family stuff has happened in the ten years since my mother died. There have been graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, job changes, moves, new pets as well as saying goodbye to beloved old ones, births, deaths and of course, my cancer diagnosis. To be sure, I miss my mother on all the big-stuff days, but honestly, I miss her most on ordinary, mundane days. I miss her calls on some random Monday. I miss our chats about movies and dogs and North Dakota and my grandparents and gardening and kids and books and whatever.

Sometimes I am glad my mother wasn’t here to witness my diagnosis and all the crap that followed and follows still. Sometimes I am pissed off she hasn’t been here to witness, to listen, to commiserate with – mostly just to mother.

It’s been ten years.

I mark time to remember my mother and yes, to talk about metastatic breast cancer. But I also mark time to remember other things about her. All the things that made her who she was. Before cancer.

A before cancer photo we recently found. Way before. Not sure if it's high school or college.

A before cancer photo we recently found. Way before. Not sure if it was a high school or college photo.

It’s a lot to remember and for this, I am grateful. Far too many daughters and sons will struggle to remember a mother stolen in their youth by metastatic disease, and some will be unable to remember at all. My heart aches for families like those. My heart aches for all families impacted by this still too often deadly disease.

10 Years. Marking time. Again.

Taken on my mother’s last trip to my house in the summer of 2007.

And so, I mark time. Again.

It’s been ten years.

I remember, Mother. I remember it all.

I miss you.

It’s been ten years.


Who do you mark time for?

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10 years. Marking Time. Again.

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Beth L. Gainer

Saturday 19th of May 2018

Simply beautiful, Nancy, and I am so saddened about your mom. Cancer sucks. There's no other way to look at it. I'm trying to cope with the losses of my aunt and my dad, neither of whom died of cancer. I don't know how people go on after a loss near and dear to their hearts. I guess I'm going on, but it's one half step at a time.


Wednesday 4th of April 2018

It's very difficult time when you lose someone, who close to our heart.

Karan Doshi

Sunday 18th of March 2018

Hey, My mom was diagnosed with MBC last November and it's really hard. I am just 25 and dropped plans to move cities and study for an MBA. It's like life has come to a stand still, but we are some how managing to work around it. These few months have been the toughest of my life and I have grown immensely in terms of maturity, just acknowledging that life can turn around in an instant can give us so much perspective. It takes a toll when you just wait for the deasese to do what it is supposed to do and then you know you will have to move on. Thank you for writing this and letting me know that there are others who know what this feels like.


Monday 19th of March 2018

Karen, I am sorry to learn about your mom's mbc diagnosis. It is really hard. Her diagnosis is still quite new, so figuring out how to manage things will take some time. You're so right - life can turn around in an instant. It sounds like you will be a wonderful support for your mom. Wishing you both my best. Take care of yourself through all this too. Thank you for sharing.

Rose Ann

Thursday 8th of March 2018

That was beautiful and so well said. I mirror your feelings as I marked 20 years of losing my dad to cancer when he was 54 and I 27. It hit me hard, really hard. I too miss him most on the ordinary days. And I am often thankful he was not here to have to watch me go through my own journey with breast cancer; I know it would've crushed him. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I enjoy reading your posts and it helps to know we are bot alone with our feelings.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

Rose Ann, Thank you. I am sorry cancer stole your dad. And you were both so young too. I understand how you are thankful your dad wasn't here to watch you go through all the cancer stuff. I know that was really hard for my dad, although he didn't talk much about it. Thank you for sharing about your dad and thank you for your kind words about my posts. Take care.

Kathy Lau583

Wednesday 7th of March 2018

I got depression and anxiety. All the scans are clear why can't I just believe that. And relax, ok back to my hypnosis tapes. Please pray for me and others who are working so hard to get rid of the anxie.ty so they don't have to be dependant on anti depressants and anti anxiety drugs. Thank you


Thursday 8th of March 2018

Kathy, I am sorry to hear about your depression and anxiety issues. You're not alone. I hope you are receiving adequate help in managing them. My best to you.

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