“But I’m happy to be alive”. I read this a lot in breast cancer social media streams. The sense that people are going through all these invasive treatments, and that the treatments are saving them. They live through adversity and are happy to be alive at no matter what additional pains and discomforts are thrown in their path.
I read this, and I seem to alternate between the sense that breast cancer will kill me or that breast cancer won’t kill me. Either way, I don’t have any sense that treatment is what is making the difference. Treatment is just something that I need to do – but I don’t have that feeling that treatment is tied to the outcome.
When I’m not feeling great, I more often get the sense that breast cancer is going to kill me. I question how much awfulness in treatments I’m willing to put my self through if it is going to kill me anyways. But, on good days, when I don’t feel awful, I feel that I’m a survivor. I can see beyond the treatment, to living my life again without it always being about breast cancer. I can see beyond the treatment, into living with NED (no evidence of disease).
You see, doctors don’t know what causes metastatic disease. I found the cancer early – so that is good – but it doesn’t mean the disease will or will not metastasize. The known treatments are intended to reduce the odds, but that is all they do. In many ways, it is fate that plays the biggest role in whether or not this kills me. Treatment may change my odds, but the odds are still there. There is still some unknown that will determine whether or not I’m in the percentage of people that survive this disease or I’m in the percentage of those who won’t.
I am feeling much better today. I’m actually feeling the closest to “normal” I’ve felt since I began chemo. I’ve been working hard all day on my ethics proposals for both my thesis study and a new evaluation study. I’m able to concentrate on academic things for the first time in a long time.
That being said, I cannot say I buy into the “happy to be alive” message. That is, I’m not unhappy to be alive, just that I don’t feel like my life has mysteriously been saved such that it would make me especially happy to be alive at this particular moment in time.