Kathy: How I Deal with the Fear of Metastatic Breast Cancer

My name is Kathy and I have been metastatic for 9 1/2 years. I have been one of the very fortunate women who had a miraculous response after taking Taxol and Herceptin for several years. I have been "NED" (no evidence of disease) for several years and have been off all medication for two years.

Several weeks ago, I had a swelling in the middle of my breasts. The swelling was soft and initially I didn't think too much about it. But after several days, when it didn't go away and I kept feeling it, I realized the middle part of it was hard. I panicked.

I called my oncologist, who recommended that I see my surgeon. I hadn't had contact with my surgeon for eight years, and now he is affiliated with a different cancer center from where I am being treated. I managed to make an appointment with a new surgeon affiliated with the cancer center where I am currently being treated. He did a biopsy, which turned out negative. But because there is a growth, a Pet Scan was taken. Thankfully, the results were normal, but it raised some concern.

What I've learned from this experience is that fear can return so easily when these situations occur. But how I handle the fear now is different. Now, I take action; I question my options and push for or request what I need. I try to keep a positive outlook.

I do rehearse in my mind how I would deal with bad news. This method of rehearsing the bad news prepares me and keeps me sane.

I talk to myself the way I would talk with a caller on the SHARE Helpline. I realize and acknowledge the fear and assure myself that no matter what the results are, I will be able to handle it with some dignity. Working on the Helpline has been tremendously rewarding and a growing experience.

Kathy_01

Kathy

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  • Kathy

    Dear Lela: Thank you for you comment about how you deal with fear. I, too, often pray and I find that sitting in church and thanking God for all the good things in my life helps too. I also ask for help in accepting the challenges that face me in the future. Regarding fear – it never goes away – my oncologist's nurse called me yesterday with my tumor marker results, which fortunately were normal. But, this morning my oncologist called and I was panic stricken hearing her voice on the phone. She was only calling to say that my postasium level was slightly elevated but that it was nothing. It is amazing to me, that despite the fact that I knew all was well that just hearing my oncologist's voice on the phone made my heart skip a beat.

    Kathy Hynes-Kadish

  • lela

    I am so happy that you shared this thought with us . Fear has taken over a few times in the last 4 years , since I have been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer .Metastisis to the hip requiring total hip replacement , mastectomy ,and ongoing monthly chemo . The way that I overcome my fear , is to pray while waitng for a report to be given and that prayer is to God saying" help me accept what this news is going to be" Fear can be conquered , God bless you for this testimonial

  • MARIA E A P

    Me llamo Maria tengo 34 anos yo fui diagnosticada con cancer de seno metastico en abril del2010 me siento con mucho animo de seguir luchando al leer sobre esta historia de supervivencia de 9 anos quisiera felicitarle por este bonito mensaje de seguir luchando contra el cancer ya que esta enfermedad nos vuelve mas fuertes me gustaria ver en esta pagina mas historias de persanas que actualmente estan pasando por una etapa similar a la mia que es cancer metastico y por ultimo quisiera decirle que tengo 3 ninos por quien voy a continuar luchando con la ayuda de DIOS en primer lugar y luego con personas como ustedes que dedican su tiempo para ayudar y dar esperanza de vida a muchas mujeres con cancer de seno gracias.

  • Ines Cifuentes

    I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 (age 53). I had noticed a small nodule on my right breast. I had a lumpectomy and because the margins weren't clear it was followed by a mastectomy–all at Johns Hopkins. The sentinel nodes were clear and the Oncotype DX genetic test of the tumor indicted low probability of recurrence. I recovered well and was on tamoxifen.

    In February 2010 I noticed a lump under my right underarm. I saw my surgeon and oncologist at Hopkins and learned that I had a recurrence and that it had metastasized. The cancer had spread to my bones, liver, and lungs. I was switched from tamoxifen to arimidex and started getting infusions of zometa to strengthen my bones. I had some side effects primarily joint and leg pain that made me feel like an old woman when I woke up in the morning. In March 2011 I switched from arimidex to faslodex–painful shots in the butt.

    In August 2011 after having digestion problems and an elevated level of bilirubin I had a biopsy of a pancreatic mass. After much discussion between my oncologists and specialists in pancreatic cancer the conclusion was that the tumor at the top of the pancreas was breast cancer and not pancreatic cancer. I started chemo (carboplatin and gemcitabine) in October and a few weeks later had stents put in my bile duct and small intestine.

    In the fall of 2012 I started having pain in my back after a yoga session. I had started doing yoga after I learned of the recurrence. I saw a spine neurosurgeon at Hopkins. I have fractures in several vertebrae caused by tumors impinging on my spine. In December 2012 I went through a round of radiation to shrink the larger tumors. The back pain is better.

    I am now taking aromasin and afinitor. I see my oncologists every month and get an infusion of Zometa. Every 3 months I have a CAT scan. Depending on the results we either continue with the treatment or try something different.

    I have good days and bad ones. I am often very tired and simply have to take it easy. When I feel good I do the things I enjoy. I have a son who is 24 and a daughter who is 19. I want to see them become adults so I keep going. I have consulted with the palliative care director at Hopkins and have begun the conversation of what I will and will not do in terms of treatment. I see a therapist who specializes in working with people who have chronic or terminal illness. And I walk our dogs daily and try to swim a few times a week. This is tough stuff.

    I am not a Christian and lean towards a Buddhist view of life and death. Each one of us must find a way to live with the knowledge of death.

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