When people are faced with an overwhelming challenge, the advice they often hear is “take it one day at a time.” While I see the wisdom in that way of thinking, I recently have adopted my own mantra—I’m taking life 12 weeks at a time.
Every three months, I have my body scanned for signs that the metastatic breast cancer I’m fighting has been kept at bay. It’s difficult to live your life with the uncertainty that another round of testing brings, but my cancer journey has taught me to live life in the moment and to be grateful for each and every day.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at age 26. I was young and healthy, so my doctors and I went for super aggressive treatment —a double mastectomy and eight grueling rounds of chemo. For many women and men who battle breast cancer, that is the end of their story — they beat the disease and are survivors. I have a different story.
In 2014, during a routine scan, two nodules were found in my lungs. The breast cancer had spread there — but this time the prognosis was different. I am one of the approximately 30 percent of breast cancer survivors who get a metastatic diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that originates in the breast but moves through the bloodstream to another part of your body. There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer.
What most people don’t understand is that my treatment will never end. I often get, “but you look so healthy.” And on most days, I feel healthy. I don’t look like the typical cancer patient. But the reality is this disease will take my life. It could be next month, next year or it could be 10 years from now. This isn’t me being negative, it’s me being realistic.
I am fortunate in that I was able to enroll in a clinical trial at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and so far, the quarterly scans are showing that the treatment is working. But, because of the way this disease works, at some point, I’ll need to move on to another treatment. And another, and who knows how many others for the rest of my life. And that is why there needs to be more focus on this disease — more awareness, more research, more breakthroughs to make sure that next treatment is there when I, and the other 150,000 Americans living with metastatic breast cancer need it.
Metastatic breast cancer shouldn’t take another life… but it will unless we pledge to do more to fight it.
I refuse to let this cancer take my spirit from me, to prevent me from making a positive impact in this world. I am grateful for the gifts that cancer has given me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
My journey and fight did not begin with this metastatic diagnosis and my hope is that it won’t end here either. I will take advantage of every single moment I have left alive in this beautiful life—12 weeks at a time.
Krista Nordmark is volunteer and fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Southern New England. She is from South Windsor.