My Life with Mets by Shannon Etzel

In April 2016, when I was in my late 30’s, I heard those words that no one wants to hear.…”you have cancer”. My whole world was turned upside down, but I was determined to do everything I could to beat it. I had invasive ductal carcinoma stage 3 grade 3 with lymph nodes involved and I was triple positive. Meaning my cancer was hormone driven as I was estrogen, progesterone, and HER2+. I went through four months of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, lymph node dissection, two months of radiation, reconstructive surgery, a year’s worth of Herceptin, Lupron injections, Tamoxifen, and lots of doctor appointments. At the end I was doing well, getting my life back to normal, and I had no evidence of disease. I was glad to be working full time again. I was a veterinary technician, and I loved my job. I had my hair back, I was exercising again, and I looked and felt like me.

However, during the summer of 2021 my world was forever changed. I started having stomach issues and believed it was a gallbladder issue. My doctor sent me for a CT scan on my chest and abdomen. The results were not good.

This time I got to hear the words “the cancer is back, and it has metastasized”. I felt broken. I had a tumor which was half the size of my liver and found out my lymph nodes were also affected. My oncologist was on top of things and scheduled me right away for a liver biopsy…. which was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I had my mediport put back in, had a full body PET scan, and (he got me) started on chemo infusions…. which I will receive every three weeks indefinitely. The PET scan showed a tumor in my brain as well and some masses in my left lung. The tumor in my brain was very small so my radiologist was able to zap it with stereotactic radiation. This shrunk it down and kept it at bay. On top of the infusions, I’m also receiving monthly Faslodex injections to help with metastasis to my lung and I’m back on Lupron injections. I was on oral chemo for about seven months too which helped shrink the lung masses.

In the past year and a half, I’ve been hospitalized several times for infections and appendicitis. I’ve had lots of blood work done, imaging, injections, medications, doctor appointments, good and bad days. And I just found out that the tumor in my brain is growing again. I more than likely will be getting radiation. It’s a lot to process and a lot to deal with. I’ve had to fight depression, chronic fatigue, nausea, and my anxiety can get the best of me. My oncologist will not ok me to work because I’m immunocompromised. Having to leave my job was heartbreaking.

Despite of it all, I’ve kept a positive attitude. I’m alive and I’m living my life to the fullest. I will not let this beast stop me or define who I am. I plan on living for several more years, so I will fight it with everything I’ve got. I’m living with cancer and it’s not stopping me.

Shannon Etzel

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