I hate the fact that I have to think about cancer as often as I do. Remember my last post about feeling at peace with the news about the recurrence? Nothing has changed in that regard and I still feel at peace. I’ve laughed more in the last week or so than I did in the first 7 weeks after the diagnosis. I’m moving on, I’m trying to stay positive and hold on to the belief that I am going to be the exception to this disease; the one that gets to live for several decades after a stage IV diagnosis.
However, as much as I’m doing my best to stay positive, I’m constantly being reminded about what a beast this disease is. I joined a couple of Facebook forums for young woman with advanced breast cancer – before you go judging me, let me explain my rationale for trying to find support from people going through the same thing.
When I got the initial diagnosis in January 2010, a few people stood out that helped me deal with the treatments and the horrendous side effects that came with them. One of them is a lady called Marilyn who I sadly never got to meet in person. I met her on one of the breast cancer forums and we went on to establish a friendship outside of the forum. She was the first person I knew that had actually been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and was at the other end of treatment at the point I was starting mine. She checked up on me constantly and could relate with the side effects and the toil treatment was taking on me.
We had plans of meeting up at some point as she was based in America. Sadly, this was never meant to be as she had a recurrence four years after her initial diagnosis and died just over a year after that. My heart still breaks every time I think of her. But I take comfort in the fact that she touched so many lives in her short time on earth (mine included) and this was evidenced by the lovely posts on her Facebook page after she passed on – most of them from people who had gone through breast cancer at a young age. I am always grateful to God that I met Marilyn when I did – she gave me hope that I could be happy in spite of what I was going through and I will always hold on to that lesson. Continue to rest in peace Marilyn!
Based on my experience the first time around, I thought it would be a good idea to find support from ladies going through a similar thing. I did a few searches online and realized online forums were no longer as active as they were five years ago. I figured closed Facebook groups were the way to go and I sent a couple of requests to the ones I thought would be most helpful.
After a few back and forth questions about my history in order to verify I wasn’t a fake (you would be surprised at how many crazy people try to get access to a group most of us that belong to wish we didn’t!), my requests were accepted and that’s how I joined the support groups made up of some of the most courageous young women I have ever met; an exclusive ‘club’ we all wish we had no part in.
Sadly, in the last five weeks since I became a member of two of these support groups, I have read of at least one young woman each week who died from this beast of a disease. Because it’s on Facebook, the reality even sets in more as you can see that these women had lives that comprised of young kids, spouses, jobs they loved etc. But the disease takes them away anyway. Cancer is a crazy roller coaster ride; one that takes people away prematurely from their lives and loved ones.
I am trying to figure out where to draw the line. Should I leave these groups because the reality of the eventuality of this disease is too much for me to bear? Or should I stay on and be reminded that being here every day is a gift that I cannot take for granted? I can’t pretend I don’t have stage IV cancer or that the disease isn’t terminal – five young women (who had everything to live for) dying in five weeks would make sure I never forget that. At the same time, I want to go on with my life and make the best of each day. I want to wake up each day and choose happiness over sadness. I want to choose faith and hope over worry. As much as I don’t want to be in total denial, I also don’t want to live in constant worry. I know I need to draw a line at some point but I have no idea where!