It’s back

This is the blog post I hoped I’d never write. A lot of people who aren’t yet aware of my situation will be shocked and upset by it. There are so many people I’d like to break the news to on an individual basis but that’s just not possible. Whoever you are, thank you for reading.

It’s back. I’ve been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The primary breast cancer for which I was treated “with curative intent” in 2015/2016 has spread and turned up in my bones – most obviously in three vertebrae in my spine* – and bone marrow.

The consultant oncologist who broke the news to me is the same doctor who treated me originally. She knew I knew this very well already but I guess she had no choice but to include it in the conversation; it was “treatable but not curable”.

So here we are, having recently started treatment following a diagnosis of secondary/advanced/metastatic/late stage/Stage IV breast cancer. Call it what you want, they all mean the same thing – a life-limiting illness with a very uncertain prognosis.

I was diagnosed formally on 30 April (though I knew it was coming) and I started treatment on 22 May. I’m on a new combination of powerful and aggressive drugs that are aimed at preventing the cancer from spreading any further for as long as possible. For some women, these drugs are game changers in terms of how long they keep the cancer under control. Like the consultant, we’re hoping they will result in a “durable clinical response” for me. We’re trying to be positive and to focus on the fact that I’m largely well at the moment and we hope treatment will keep me this way for a long time.

The good news is that “bone mets” from breast cancer can often be stabilised and managed for long periods of time, ie for a number of years or more. The fact that it’s also in the bone marrow complicates things. We can but see how it goes. The aim of treatment is to control the cancer, relieve symptoms such as pain, and reduce the risk of fracture – while at the same time trying to maintain a good quality of life for the patient.

It wasn’t inevitable, but anyone who follows this blog will know that I was at high risk of recurrence. Lord knows I wrote about it often enough. While I had in fact made peace with that, there’s very little I wouldn’t give for this not to have happened.

For a long time after finishing treatment for primary breast cancer, I lived in fear of it coming back. I worked very, very hard to get to a position where, while I thought about it often, I really no longer worried about it and just got on with living. Life was good; it was very good. I had conquered my fear and I was in a position of pragmatic acceptance that it might one day return. I’m really proud of myself for having got there. It wasn’t easy.

That mindset of acceptance is really helping me now. It’s a difficult time for us all but life goes on. We’ll aim to keep enjoying it and we’ll keep hoping for the best for as long as we can.

As always, writing helps. I’ve already got a few more posts in the pipeline – about my treatment, how I found out, how I’ve had to cancel big cycling plans I had for this year, etc. You know where to look if you want to read them. Wish me luck.

*As well as being in my bone marrow, the cancer is definitely in vertebrae T8, T9 and L4. There is also a lesion in my left-side rib area as well as “areas of less significant scattered bone disease”. My right hip hurts like hell sometimes but while I’m told there are no obvious signs of cancer there, it could well be related in some way to this new diagnosis – although, equally, it may not.

11 thoughts on “It’s back

  1. Dearest Maureen, hard enough for me to read, so Lord only knows how hard this is to experience, write and post. You were inspirational for me when I met you last year and I know you have tremendous strength and resilience to give this your best shot. Thinking of you and praying for the gift of time and wellbeing as you face this huge challenge. Much love Clare xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So very sorry to know your Breast cancer has progressed to stage iv It is the news we dreaad and the post we never want to write. I hope new treatment will not be too harsh in terms of side effects.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I came across your blog via a friend and am really sorry to read this. So tough to take. You will be in my thoughts and will follow your blog. Rachel x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hang in there sister. I’m 4 years into the battle and currently in remission. Yes, it sucks, no way around that. It’s life altering, too. Lots of amazing treatments in the pipeline, so hope on the horizon. Will be keeping an eye on your journey – signed a fellow traveler.

    Like

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this. Your perspective and the way you are looking this horrible thing in the eye is so incredible. I’m sorry this disease makes you confront so much. I’m rooting for you to have many good days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maureen, I’m so sorry and so indignant that you should get this news when you are in the thick of life, enjoying it and making the most of everything. How upsetting to have to cancel cycling events, which have brought you so much pleasure. Thinking of you very much xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Maureen, so very sorry to hear your devastating news, as you say, it is what we all dread. It’s always there, hidden in the back of your mind. You have wonderful medical care and there are lots of options which is a positive thing to hear. How heartbreaking to have to cancel all of your cycle rides and challenges when you had such a fab summer lined up. I remember challenging you to cycle to radiotherapy as many times as you could way back when! This blxxxy cancer is mercy less. Take heart from the fact that there are lots of us out here who are rooting for you. I am full of admiration for your no nonsense approach to this beast, give it what for!! Much love to you and your family and everything crossed for you xx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s