Once you’re diagnosed, you get a PET scan to determine if the cancer has spread. Before I got mine, I thought I’d get chemotherapy and a mastectomy, and then my life would go back to normal. But my PET scan revealed that the cancer had already spread—it was metastatic. It wasn’t until I Googled it that weekend that I realized that metastatic breast cancer is stage IV breast cancer, which has a life expectancy of two to three years. That was the moment I realized I had a terminal illness.
My doctors suggested that I go on hormone therapy and “enjoy the time that I had left.” My husband and I couldn’t believe they could say that. I got second and third opinions, and they were all different. I eventually landed on an aggressive treatment course that included chemotherapy to shrink my large tumor; then we would decide if I should have the mastectomy. I was in bed for three months. I lost all of my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. I was hospitalized a few times during chemo because I had a fever and so I was put into isolation and had to stop treatment. My daughter was so attached to me at that time and there were some days where she would just come and sit next to me in bed and it broke my heart because I was so afraid of her sitting next to me; I didn’t want her to be around that toxicity that was probably coming out of my body.
Luckily, my tumor did shrink significantly after chemo. I opted to have the surgery, followed by radiation. It burnt my skin so badly that I could barely even put on clothes. But I got through it. I took one day at a time.