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Liza was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer Dec 13, 2010. She completed chemo, radiotherapy and bilateral mastectomies in 2011. In December 2012 she was diagnosed with a recurrence, with brain and liver metastases. She has completed Gamma Knife for the brain lesions and is currently on oral chemo: Xeloda and Tykerb. She had a craniotomy in February 2015 for what turned out to be reactive scar tissue at the site of the formet brain metastasis, and a resection of a liver mass in July 2015.
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So even when things are good, cancer has a way of creepig into your every day life.
A few days ago, I had a date lunch with Liam. I know, that never happens. We were discussing his involvement in ACEP and what he thinks his future roles will be at the state and national levels. In the middle of the casual conversation he said to me " and in 4 years you will either be dead or a long time survivor." This took me by surprise. It was hard to hear that those around me do think about a world where I am not around. Not sure why I am surprised by this but I am . I guess I just can't live my life thinking I won't be around, so it hurts to know that others have to. Of course they do, they have to prepare for what might/will be. It was just a moment were I cursed cancer again. It is always present. I live every day with the side effects of my ongoing treatment; I get tested every 3 months. Of course I know it is ever present. But I cannot spend my days preparing for my end. I just can't. If I did, I wouldn't be able to function. I fight myself because there are all those things I want to do to prepare myself and my family for my death if that comes to pass. But how does one do this? How does one write letters, make videos, leave behind the essence of yourself? And to do so without losing the zest for life that you have. I find that if I focus on my potential death, I start to go down a rabbit hole that I don't want to. Others may be able to, but I am not capable of doing so. I choose to spend my time enjoying what I have and being present. It is how I work. It is how I function. So it was hard to hear my spouce of almost 20 years talk about his plans for the future and know that he has to make two plans; one with me and one without me. It was an eye opener for me. I know no one can truely understand my journey, but this was one time where I understood that I cannot fully understand my family's journey. I don't walk in their shoes. We can talk about how we are feeling, but I can never fully understand what goes on in their heads. This revelation made me feel a whole lot of things; sad, mad, scared, humbled to name few. It was an example to me that even when life seems to be normal for my family, it really isn't. There is always going to be that spector of death due to cancer hanging over us. I am very proud and happy to say, I feel like my family does a wonderful job living live with that spector. We don't give it power over us. Instead, on most days, we live our lives valuing what we have.
Late last night, that spector krept into my life again, as my oldest had a nightmare that my cancer was back and had spread. It was heartbreaking to see him in such a sad and frightened state. This was a true nightmare for him. And for me, it was a glimpse inside my child's head. On most days, my kids do great living with a mom who has stage 4 cancer. Their moods often become more contemplative as my scans/tests grow near. And then there is a visible relaxation that runs through their bodies and minds when said test come back clean. So I was again taken aback by the power of the spector of cancer, when my son had this nightmare. I have just received all good news on my tests and don't have to worry about it again until January. I was surprised to see his fear come to light after the good news. My mommy intuition tells me that this was a fear that had been building and his mind finally had to express it; he is a very good at compartmentalizing his feelings. I just held him and told him that I was well now and that I promised I would fight until I could not fight any more. He sobbed for a few more minutes and then I could feel the tension leave his body. He told me that in his nightmare, the cancer spread to his sister and brother as well. Another glimpse into the head of my child. Without knowing it, my son showed me in that most vulnerable of moments, that he lived in fear of cancer. he allowed me to see into his world and know that the spector was there and it was powerful. I hate cancer and that it effects my family in such ways. I am proud however at the resilance my family shows. After snuggling for a bit longer the overwelming fear and sadness was gone. It had been put back into its box and locked away;present but not holding power over him anymore.
I am in awe of how strong and courageous my family is; how they choose to live life despite the fear cancer brings. They are amazing people. I love them more than anything. And they are why I fight. They are the reason I am doing so well. They give me the power, the inspiration, the motivation to keep going even on the hard days. I would be lost without them. And so I thank them. I thank them for not letting cancer eat away at the life we have built. I thank them for not holding me responsible for bringing this spector into our lives. I thank them for being themselves. I thank them for being real.