Kathryn Johnson

First post: Feb 17, 2021 Latest post: Feb 23, 2021
There are those moments in life when everything, everything, changes. December 30, 2020 at 5 PM in the evening was one of those moments. I received a call from my doctor who said: "I just got the results of your MRI. It reveals a number of abnormalities in several of your bones.
                                                                                                                         "AND THEN NOTHING WAS THE SAME AGAIN.

After having moved from Milton, MA to East Greenwich, RI at the beginning of last summer, I began experiencing back pain.  Given the restrictions of the pandemic, I was unable to find a primary care doctor in East Greenwich so finally returned to my doctor in Milton who diagnosed the problem as a pulled muscle. We both figured I must have wrenched something during the  move. Several doctor’s office visits, one trip to the ER, a stretch of physical therapy and finally an MRI later, I discovered that the cause of the pain is not a pulled muscle, but breast cancer that has metastasized to my bones.

As some of you reading this post know, I had breast cancer back in 2001.  Breast cancer recurrence and metastasis is far more common than many people realize, but after surgery, chemo and radiation back in 2001, and no problems since that time, I had assumed I was home free. Not so.

It is not entirely clear whether my current cancer metastasized from that original 2001 cancer, or from a new occurrence of cancer, but either way, it is now in several bones within my torso.  

In the midst of this bad news there are some pieces of relatively good news.

- The cancer is only present in my bones and not in any other organs. The liver, lungs and brain can also be sites of metastasized breast cancer, but aren’t, at least thus far, in my case.
- While metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured, there are several treatments designed to “manage” such cancer. My cancer is estrogen positive which means that one of the treatments available to me is an estrogen blocker. I had this same treatment back in 2001. Some of you will remember my legendary hot flashes!
- I am receiving my cancer care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston which is one of the best in the country.
- My treatment plan consists of  both radiation (to shrink existing tumors and ease the pain where the tumors are impinging on nerves) and chemo in pill form (which targets and kills the actual cancer cells). I will receive monthly bone strengthening infusions and regular scans to monitor the growth (or hopefully, lack thereof) of the cancer. The treatment is rigorous (with accompanying mouth sores, intestinal distress, etc.) but is far better than the alternative!

I have no idea what this means for ultimate longevity, but then none of us ever knows that for sure, cancer or no cancer.  In general terms, I have begun to think of my life as being measured in years rather than decades, but even that is just a guess. I find that while I am a bit overwhelmed at times, and concerned about family members and loved ones, I am experiencing no fear. I receive this absence of fear as the gift of God’s grace in the assurance of a life that does not begin and end here on this earth, but rather moves from love into love.

I have been able to continue my work as Lead Pastor at the East Greenwich United Methodist Church through the grace and generosity of other staff members and of my parishioners who have been tremendously kind and supportive.

Even in the midst of what is proving to be a tough new reality, I am aware of an excess of riches - various places to call home - circles of loving friends to surround and accompany me on this journey - access to stellar medical facilities and cutting edge care - family members and dear friends stepping up and pitching in during these first months of figuring out how to navigate these new waters

More updates to come. And in the meantime.....my love to all.


Grace and peace,

Kathryn



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