As promised I intend to try and challenge cancer myths in this blog. I am a 34 year old civil servant. I am not a scientist but I do have stage 4 breast cancer and a lot of opinions. For reference I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer straight away aged just 33 in November 2017.
Myth 1 – stage 4 = death bed
In November 2017 I was admitted to hospital with dangerously high levels of calcium in my blood. The next day I was told I had cancer in multiple bones, my lungs and my breasts. Immediately the assumption made by most medical professionals was that I was going to die very quickly. I was pressurised to quit work and start claiming benefits so my last few months could be stress free. People stopped referring to my husband as my husband. He was now “carer”. The first time I met my palliative care nurse she asked me where I wanted to die. My GP prescribed me very high levels of morphine on the basis that I would not be on it long enough to get addicted. The side effects of that morphine will be covered in another blog. A nurse suggested it was cruel to give me a Zoladex injection because I would be dead soon. For reference Zoladex injections truly are cruel 😢. Cancer charities guidance on stage 4 solely talked about end of life care and dying. There was very little hope out there that I’d make 6 months.
Well I’m writing this blog in January 2019. In the last week I have:
- Been to two football games.
- Started a blog.
- Had 2 personal training sessions at the gym.
- Held a charity raffle, ceilidh and comedy evening to raise money for three cancer charities.
- Done a 37 hour working week.
- Been dentist.
- Been to an animal park and fed some tame deer by hand.
- Read several books.
- Finally finished watching season 7 of Game of Thrones.
- Spent time with my husband.
I still have stage 4 breast cancer. It will kill me on an unknown date. But as the social media hashtag says I’m #BusyLivingWithMets.
I’m not the only one. There are thousands of people who are living with treatable but incurable cancer. I wish I could say how many of us there are but I can’t. We aren’t counted by many healthcare systems including the NHS. They don’t seem capable of counting us. The only thing that is known is that 450 people a day in the UK are killed by cancer.
Don’t write us off just because we have stage 4. We want and deserve access to new and innovative treatments to keep us busy living until the day we are killed by cancer. If you want to see more people like me check out the brilliant @abcdiagnosis on Twitter or my awesome personal trainer Vicky Veness who is on Instagram as @vickyvstrongerthanc. Vicky has stage 4 lung cancer and ran a half marathon last week! They are just 2 examples of the new wave of stage 4 patients who are living. Follow the #BusyLivingWithMets hashtag to find many more.
I hope that after reading this blog you agree that stage 4 does not automatically equal death bed. My hope was boosted this week by @lwhlaura on Twitter. She has made it to ten years with secondary breast cancer. That’s hope right there. Stage 4 needs more of everything and that includes hope and dreams of living rather than dying.
Stay tuned for my attempts to bust more myths about cancer. Feel free to disagree with me. Just be polite about it. I am dying after all!