How many times can our hearts break? #los #grief #MBC #metastaticbreastcancer

How Many Times Can Our Hearts Break?

The losses from metastatic breast cancer continue, as does the heartache, the frustration, the anger, the disbelief and the agony. The numbers are staggering. Too many, just too many.

When will the numbers start going down, we ask?

When will the dying stop?

How many times can our hearts break?

Each loss feels personal. Each one makes me circle back to remember the others. Each one feels different, and yet, each one feels the same. I feel a connectivity to them all because there’s an invisible bond between those who have heard the words, you have cancer.

The first loss that pierced my heart most deeply was, of course, my mother. My mother was the rock of the family; the planner, the communicator, the one you could count on, the one who first loved me. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

It’s been over six years since I started this blog. I have met many amazing people online. Sadly, some of them have died. Too many have died. Too many, just too many.

Let me tell you about a few.

First there was Daria. Before Daria, I understood little about online friendships and losses. Now, six years later, I understand them both well. And let me be clear, online friendships and losses are real. Very real. Daria was the first online loss I experienced. Daria was fearlessly living, fearlessly blogging and fearlessly advocating. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

Next, there was Rachel. Rachel encouraged, enlightened and stirred things up with her wit, wisdom and warmth. She inspired me to be a better writer and nudged me into advocacy. Rachel brought out the best in everyone. How many people do that? And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There was my friend Barb, a fellow Wisconsinite, and one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. Barb loved the Packers. Not me. I’m a Vikings fan. So we sparred a bit during football season, just for fun. Barb even sparred kindly. I was just getting to know Barb, and we spoke of meeting one day. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There was Lisa who gave us glimpses into harsh realities of this wretched disease. Lisa wrote and tweeted candidly (some thought too candidly) trying to reach anyone who might listen. Lisa insisted the typical breast cancer narrative society clung to needed to change. She became part of that change. Until her last days, she encouraged us to find beauty and to always persevere. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There was Jody; she was so smart, so articulate and had such a huge heart. Jody expected the best from everyone around her and usually got it. No one wanted to let Jody down. She taught many how to advocate harder, demand more and never settle. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There was Vickie a person I admired for her intellect, integrity and generous heart. She would ask me about my dad when his health was failing, even though her health was failing as well. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There are more names to name. Too many, just too many.

There was Susan. And Donna. And Shelli. And Carolyn. And Seporah. And Holleye. And Tami. And Jenny. I’ll stop there for fear of inadvertently leaving out someone dear.

But they are all dear ones.

Every death (of the 40,000+ that occur each year from metastatic breast cancer in the US) represents a family’s dear one. 

Too many, just too many dear ones.

How many times can our hearts break?

I must mention one more.

Most recently, there was Mandi. Mandi was free-spirited, passionate, upbeat and above all, nonjudgmental. Just days ago, she sat on a beach with her husband posting photos of sea turtles on Instagram; that was so like Mandi, btw. And then she was gone.

How many times can our hearts break?

There are more losses to come. Sadly, we know this is true. The string of losses grows longer every day.

Our hearts will break over and over again.

Some ask, why not pull away?

Why put yourself through it?

How many times can our hearts break?

There are countless reasons why many, including me, will never turn away, but in a word – love. It’s because of love we do not.

How many times can our hearts break?

An infinite number of times.

We’ll open our hearts again and again, knowing full well heartache will follow.

Because that is the way love works.

How many times can our hearts break?


Who does your heart break for?

What action are YOU taking to try to lower the number of deaths from metastatic breast cancer?

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 How many times can our hearts break? #grief #loss #MBC

14 thoughts to “How Many Times Can Our Hearts Break?”

  1. Hi Nancy,
    Your post really touched me. I was lucky enough to meet Tami and her family, and my heart breaks for her and them. It’s such a major loss, as are all the losses that you speak of and more. Oftentimes, I feel powerless to help. I helped Faun and Virginia, as you know, but in the end, they died. Virginia died of leukemia, and it was really heartbreaking. In fact, I recently had a happy dream where Virginia was alive. It was so realistic; I hated to wake up.

    A good friend of mine works at a company that was looking for a worthy organization to donate to. I suggested Metavivor, and my friend told the company president, who donated a good amount to this organization. While I feel good about this, I still feel powerless.

    Thank you for that reminder that all lives are important. Everyone matters.

    1. Beth, I remember reading about your friends Faun and Virginia, and of course, I remember Tami. I like to think we are not powerless because we can all do something. But on the other hand, I know exactly what you mean. So much loss and heartache continues which is exactly why we keep on advocating. Thank you for sharing.

  2. How many times we stop the heart break??? If all medical and health care in breast cancer would gather data, would share and analyze what traditional treatments works and not works, perhaps we could still save some lives, prevent losing another breast cancer thriver. Oncology medical doctors don’t have time to analyze outside the tradition breast cancer treatments. We human being build patterned and not able to look outside the traditional treatments unless there clinical trials. It seems less done 12% chance to survive once you diagnosed on breast cancer.❤️ ⭕️❌⭕️❌

  3. I agree, love is part of the reason I cannot turn away. The other is that I think we must bare witness to each and every life lost. Each person who has touched us, inspired us, lifted us up. They’re people, all those numbers gone every year. All those vital, loving, inspirational people, men and women, gone too soon. You’ve listed some of the advocates who have touched many,
    Michelle and Sharon may not have been known by many, but I will miss them every day, until I hope I can see them again.

    1. Sharon, You are so right. Bearing witness is something we all must do. And you touched on one of my main points in the post, every loss represents some family’s dear one. Too many dear ones stolen, just too many. I am sorry about Michelle and Sharon. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Nancy, your post is very touching. I’ve been feeling very down the last few months. Ever since the death of my friend Cathy, I feel my spirit has been shot. Every time I sit down to enjoy a meal, she crosses my mind. Every time I am about to do anything enjoyable, I can’t help but to stop and think of her and her kids. I can’t forget what I saw and it’s still painful. I was not prepared for this loss. Yes, there have been others but Cathy’s death felt the most personal to me. And of course, those who have died in my family, including my young cousin Glenny. And yes, every loss feels different, and yet each one feels the same. It hurts every time and it also feels surreal, even when expected. Like you, I can’t look the other way. Every death is personal to some level. We are all at a risk of being next. It doesn’t get easier with time either.

    I always try to educate others and spread information about organizations that focus on research. I still feel helpless and wish I can do more to help.

    I’ll miss Mandi.


    1. Rebecca, Your feelings of grief over your dear friend are still quite raw, as is your pain. I’m sure Cathy would want you to enjoy those meals and everything else you love doing. But yes, it’s hard. Too many losses, just too many. Like Mandi. Thank you for all you do to support others, to educate and to support research efforts, too. You’re doing more than you realize. Thank you for reading and sharing. xo

  5. I can feel the pain.Once when I was a cancer patient I went through the same agony which killed me again and again.Only my family was with me till the last moment.There were times where I lost all my hopes but continued the cancer treatments just because my parents wanted to.I am happy that you consider about your friends.In my case I had the social pressure on me because my friends somehow got distant from me.I couldn’t and still can’t move with the society as I did earlier.Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Stefani, I am sorry you’ve had these things to deal with. And yes, the societal pressures and friendship changes can add to the challenges of coping. I’d say, move with society in the way that works for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, too.

  6. Your post reminded me of loss. Of loss of Melissa and of Ben. Of all the other losses that seem so unfair so wrong so much loss. MBC losses, brain cancer losses, colorectal cancer losses, pancreatic cancer losses, all human life means something. No one deserves to die from cancer. The voices carry across our hearts if we let them in. It’s up to us to create ongoing legacy as long as we are capable. Thank you for writing this most difficult and moving post, my dearest Nancy. You are love tied in a bow and given as a gift to us all.

  7. Emily Garnett. Every post she wrote broke my heart because she just could not catch a break. And she was so very young! Now I read other MBC bloggers and I find myself worrying about them! People I haven’t met (like Emily) but people who touch my heart. I can’t turn away, can’t ignore them. But I feel like some people are turning away from me because they do not want to face my inevitable.

    1. Linda, It’s the hardest part of advocacy – knowing some we come to know and care about will die. Too soon. I worry about some of the bloggers I follow too. Heck, I worry about you. But turning away isn’t the answer. At least it’s not for me. I’m sorry you feel that some are turning away from you. That’s gotta hurt. But many are not and will not. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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