July 27, 2018 – Earlier this week I reached a personal milestone: it has been five (5) years since my stage IV cancer diagnosis. For me, it’s a bittersweet occasion this year. I’ve been fortunate to still be alive to experience wonderful times and happy memories, but at the same time, however, endure some very sad events and lasting heartache. Five years of the typical ups and downs of life.
Life goes on, even for someone living with stage IV cancer.
A Brief History
Note: Before I go any further, I want to make certain that anyone new to this blog or new to my world receives a brief history lesson. On July 24, 2013 my oncologist informed me that a PET scan revealed several tiny malignant tumors in my lungs (primarily in my right lung). He told me that without treatment I had 9 to 12 months to live. A week or so later, a biopsy confirmed that the tumors were metastatic melanoma. While treatable, stage IV melanoma is typically not curable.
Lucky to have cancer?
I realize how lucky I am – “lucky” being an odd word to use for someone with late-stage cancer. While I’m not looking for sympathy, I sometimes get frustrated with those around me – family, friends, neighbors, et al – who act as though everything is okay with me. I know I’ve ranted about this previously, but I DO have cancer and – as far as I know – it’s not going away anytime soon.
In fact, “going away” – as in I may be going away sometime soon – is the key reason this year’s diagnosis anniversary is so emotional.
For most cancer patients, survival rates are measured in five-year increments. Living five years after a melanoma diagnosis is a significant milestone. Survival rates at the 5-year mark for a patient with Stage IV melanoma are typically 15% to 20%. At 10 years, the rates drop to between 10% to 15% (based on 2008 data). Those statistics continue to improve as new targeted therapies have proven to be successful, but it’s still a very small ratio of hope.
Again, I’m fortunate to be in that ten to twenty percent group (so far), yet I can’t help wondering if and when my luck will run out.
Considering the inevitable
It’s hard, dreadfully hard to consider the inevitable. We will all face death at some point, but there are times – like this past week – when I have trouble believing that I will live another 5 to 10 years. At certain times, I can’t see myself getting older with Vicki or watching our children continue into the next phases of adulthood. We don’t talk much about it because it’s not only depressing, it’s painful to even consider.
|One of my favorite pictures: June 2015 – Quebec City, Quebec Canada.|
One day at a time
We have a ways to go before our luck runs out, and, hopefully, by then, advances in cancer treatments – with a possibility of a cure – will become commonplace (and affordable). My goal is to continue to take it one day at a time and be there to enjoy – with my family and friends – every sunrise and sunset that I can.
Thanks, as always, for listening.
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