This can be your hobby-stalking start point to getting more details in a Q&A format about my diagnosis. If you want more nuance or narrative, you'll have to rifle through other entries. I'll keep this as a sticky post and update it as I can.
What the f*ck is wrong with you, exactly?
I have metastatic breast cancer, that started specifically as triple-positive breast cancer on the left side. It's pretty much in the part of my side-boob next to my armpit; it doesn't show on 2D or 3D mammograms. Coincidentally, I was getting all spun up for a deployment to Kuwait with my job, and had been medically cleared by both my primary care provider and the on-base doctors to go downrange. Literally, the only thing wrong with me is cancer.
Yes, there is a direct link, in that I want to drink Bloody Mary's now, as I previously never really had a taste for vodka.
How did you find it?
Because it metastisized to my lymph nodes and I could feel a giant tumor in my armpit. One morning, I woke up, and it was just... there. And it hurt like a mo-fo, so I got it checked out. Because of the aforementioned deployment, and my otherwise good health (totally ironic, I know), my doctor thought it was a minor infection that would need antibiotics, which I could bring with me while I deployed. It was the weird shapes on the armpit ultrasound that inspired a biopsy, which came back as cancer.
Me, IRL, with a lump in my armpit.
What caused it?
The same thing that causes all cancer, cell division gone awry.
Is is genetic?
Not for me. I did a genetic screening test for 38 known markers for cancers, from breast cancer to ovarian cancer to leukemia to colon cancer plus others, and ALL came back negative. This does mean that my female family members should get annual breast MRIs starting at age 27, which is a decade before I got diagnosed, just in case this is something family specific.
What stage is it?
Ehh, pretty safe to say it's Stage IV, based on where it has moved. It started in point A (left side boob), then went to point B (left lymph nodes), then to parts further afield and in the bones. This is the metastatic part. It's also in my spine and shoulder, and this was discovered via PET CT. Those areas glowed on the test results screens! But since it all started as a type of breast cancer that has a targeted therapy, called Herceptin, it's better to start treating it and hope for a good reaction to the treatment.
Unrelated, I got a neon pink wig to wear when my hair falls out. I forgot about the pink obsession with this disease, just thought the wig looked fun.
How much time do you have left?
About as much as much time as the rest of us, which is a total unknown. Granted, I've got a disease with a fairly high propensity to kill off its host, so I'm more likely to know what I'll die of than most. However, I live in Idaho, where the drivers are insane, and I could die in a 55 car pileup on Rt 84 at any time. Or get struck by lightning. Or maybe I'll the plague from a teeny whistle pig that lives in my yard. Or modern medicine will come up with a new treatment and I'll live to be legit old. You get the point. Any of us can die in an instant.
Can it be cured?
I can't ever really expect to be in remission, as there's currently not a way to get the cancer out of the bones. I'll have the current course of 6 months of chemo, followed by another year or so of a different chemo cocktail, then surgery with radiation at the O.G.* site, then tamoxifen forever. My best case scenario is to keep the wolf at the door, and stay alive long enough that the metastatic part can be cured in the future.
Are you getting treatment?
Yes, and the tumor in my armpit doesn't hurt anymore. Also, I am getting some hormone blockers for estrogen, which has helped regulate my androgen levels, too, as those had ratcheted way up in response to the upswing of estrogen. That being less out of whack makes me feel better. I've been prescribed a trio of antinausea medication to help combat the side effects of chemo. Not only are they effective, but they work on the nervous system as a whole and not on the stomach; think Ativan instead of Pepto Bismol. The side effect of taking these meds to prevent barfing is that they are antianxiety drugs, so when the nausea subsides, I've got 6-8 hours with a little less existential dread. Obviously, this only applies to cancer related existential dread, and not the kind I like to wallow in about the post-apocalyptic Mad Max sort of world I hope to die in someday. Obviously. ;-)
This is the cutest example of plush cancer I could find on the whole internet.
I heard there's great treatments available in New York City. Why don't you go there? What about [insert name of city 500+ miles from my house here]?
Because I live in the Boise metro area, where there are fantastic medical facilities, excellent doctors, and tons of highly skilled professionals that take care of me right here.
My cousin's dog groomer's best friend cured their cancer by eating a raw vegan diet. Why don't you do that?
I do what I can to avoid sugar and I trend as much as possible to a pescetarian keto diet. I don't eat beef, pork, or lamb; I lamentably don't eat much dairy, much as I love it; and I eat far less pasta and rice than I would prefer. Between the chemo, the targeted hormone therapy, and eating a normalsauce diet not filled with crap, I'm set. Also, fun fact, my taste buds have totally changed since starting treatment. Swiss cheese and vinegar are still pretty gross to me, so not everything is different.
We napped a bit during my 7.5 hour infusion last week.
What is Joe doing during all of this?
He's been right next to me for everything! He's totally rearranged his business to take me to all my appointments.
* O.G. means Original Gangsta, for those of you who aren't up on your outdated hip-hop lingo.