Happy New Year – Flying Home

I am sitting on a plane with wifi and reading other breast cancer blogs which I did during a wonderful holiday with my family. They have me thinking a lot. My need to write today has to do with the fact that as I take this flight home I am flooded with memories and feelings of my past flights going back to California when I was living closer to my family on the southeast coast. I flew many times on this flight to California running to my friends especially my very close friend Li who went through chemo with me and had stage IV MBC , while on the east coast my brother was going through stage IV esophageal cancer. His health climbed faster downhill then my friend because of the stage at which he discovered his cancer.

I have been so happy working away at being a patient advocate and doing everything I can to make a difference and I am reading different things and all I can say is this may sound crazy but for me it was so much easier being the patient in jeopardy going through my primary chemo at an earlier stage than having to watch my brother and best friend go down their line of chemo drugs and disease progression. I ask myself over and over why it wasn’t me and why it was them as I stood by and they let me in fearlessly clinging to the joy they could find in life and wanting to have as much quality of time in life with them.

After I had breast cancer twice in California I decided to move closer to be with my family, because I just was drained from all the constant treatment and I missed my family. Little did I know seven months later my father would find out that he had pancreatic cancer and luckily I had moved close to the family and was able to be with him, since he died 10 days from finding out his diagnosis. I think in some ways he was better off not knowing that he was so sick until the end.

Being with my brother and my best friend as they went down their line of drugs was just as special, yet at the same time I have so much guilt that it wasn’t me. I luckily rented a room in California so I could fly back and forth and keep my medical Doctors in California.

gene-technology-7830After my brother died I moved back to California as everything shifted and luckily I had been at the right place …at the right time…while my friend got close to the end. I am on another flight knowing this cycle will not stop. A very close friend has Stage III – IV lung cancer and is such an inspiration. I have a few more friends who are going through Stage IV breast cancer. I have stepped in cancerland and there is no turning back. I am not Stage IV and for that I should be grateful and (don’t get me wrong) I am but it’s hitting me as I return to my home. I am saddened by the sheer loss of things around me.

At the same time, I refuse to keep complaining and continue forward with all of my advocacy work to make a difference…It’s just that I am in a moment where I feel like that rat on the ferris wheel as more people get bad news. Yet my father, my brother and my best friend all gracefully lived in the moment as much as they could to hold on to joyous days of life while they knew they were going to be taken away from their disease. I asked my brother if he was scared and he said he wasn’t….Life…death…he just accepted to his fate and made the most of what he had. I asked my best friend and she said she wasn’t scared either. To her she was looking forward to seeing people when she died.

With these things happening around me I can’t help asking myself why them? At the same time I refuse to push myself in to the dreaded corner of anger and resentment at fate and get a grip knowing I must be smart enough to make the most of whatever time I have. In the back of my mind one of the bloggers was angry because they are stage IV and they were sick of hearing they should live in the moment. I think the reason she was angry is the word “SHOULD”. Instead we all COULD try to live in the moment.  If we don’t and we can’t make the most of out time while we are here, then why bother fighting to live. This is it. Take it or leave it. I have to try to make the most of my moments no matter how little control I have over what Stage of disease or peril I or my closest friends are in. At the same time, I am not trying to pat myself on the back as much as be grateful I have the ability to make a difference and while I believe I have NED (no evidence of disease) make the best of it. My father made the best of his life and had no idea how sick he was. I think he was better off not knowing until the end.

It’s not the analogy of “I could get hit by a bus” at any time before my friends who are in Stage IV cancerland know the bus is coming as much as why waste time getting so upset that I bring a harsher depression on myself as I have enough of that from all the hormones that have been stripped from me to theoretically keep me NED. The truth of the matter is I can wallow in anger and resentment or forge ahead with optimism and lack of fear for what is happening inside my body and live my best life. That is truly the only way I can make sense of all that is surrounding me.

Honestly I am proud of how I talked myself out of wallowing in self pity as I return to California after a wonderful holiday with my family. I am also thrilled that I have this wonderful machine and social media to help make the most of this flight as I plan to return to all the enormous tasks I have facing me and get back to my routine while I know there is so much work ahead of me to make a difference in Breast Cancer Land. And whether you are healthy, having health issues, in cancerland, affected by cancerland or just reading this because you care about me and what I have to say…thank you for letting me use this platform to express what is happening around me.

Meanwhile it’s a new year. Make the most of it, love yourself and try to enjoy everything around you no matter where your body or mind is at. This also includes what your loved ones are going through. That is the only way all of us can live our best lives and appreciate so much of what we have.

10 Replies to “Happy New Year – Flying Home”

  1. This life we live in cancer land is very draining isn’t it? The losses keep adding up, as does the heartache. Such things motivate us to keep at it, but sometimes it’s really hard. There is a lot of emotion involved and it’s no wonder you are feeling so many different things. And those questions about why them and not me? I think we’ve all been there… I’m so sorry for all the losses you’ve had in your life. Just know you are making a huge difference. Your advocacy matters so much. We all have to just “keep on keepin’ on” the best we can. Hugs.


    1. Nancy, thank you so much for your kind words. I was a little hesitant to post this, but reading your comments truly helped me realize I made the right choice. I love your expression of “keep on keepin’ on” as I send you tons of hugs back!


  2. What a wonderful post and it made me think of my own mother who died just over a year ago from a brain tumor and how when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she was devastated and convinced she was going to loose me to the disease… and yet, a few years later, it is me who is devastated by her loss to the disease. Your ferris wheel analogy struck me Susan as very apt – sometimes we are at the top of the wheel and the wheel turns and we move ever downwards. One thing for sure, the wheel keeps on turning and we have to try to be ready for the changes this brings. Keep up the great work! Marie x


    1. Marie I am so sorry that you lost your mother just over a year ago. My mother was also so devastated when I was going through my disease and recurrence, and she was in for so much more. As I mentioned in my post, a year later her husband died and the next year her oldest son got esophageal cancer and died 8 months later. My mother says we worry about the wrong things (she heard that from her mother!), and sometimes that’s so true. I love your analogy about being ready for the changes around us. Happy New Year and thank you for including me in your weekly round up with a quote from my blog with so many other awesome bloggers. You keep up the great work too. Your work means so much to so many of us. Hugs and XoXoXo – Susan


  3. Susan,This is so impressive! You make it sound so easy, but, I know that it’s attitude plus your coping mechanisms. I have a 95 year old friend, who is very bright, and has all of her faculties.She has already buried a daughter and a son……one age 50 and the other in his 60’s. She never complains about what has befallen her. I admire her so much….and I truly admire you,and what you’re doing with your life. Continue your good work…..and don’t ever falter! I’m looking forward to your next post……..Carole Rubinxoxo


    1. Carole, thank you for your positive feedback. It means a lot to me. I also love your 95 year old friend. I hope she goes over the 100 year mark with ease. It sounds like she will. Hugs! – Susan


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