It’s #metsmonday and I’m not in a particularly cheery mood after having a good cry late last night reading the blogs of two of the breast cancer bloggers I’ve followed since before my Stage IV diagnosis. Mandi and I texted about brain mets and stereotactic (targeted) radiation last summer and I just loved her outlook, attitude and dry sense of humor. She died last April and her husband has been updating her blog. He’s really struggling with grief. Catherine died very recently. I related to her because she was a writer and world traveler who also met her husband while backpacking. Both women were only in their mid-30s.
So with the mood I’m in, god help anyone who implies to me that these women were not “strong” or didn’t “fight hard.” Both women fought extremely hard. Cancer is a nasty SOB and for some it’s nastier for some than for others.
The news of Senator McCain being diagnosed with glioblastoma, a particularly deadly and hard-to-treat primary brain cancer, has spurred many well-intentioned but frankly clueless well-wishes from his DC colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum. It has also set off a cascade of articles from those who have fought cancer or lost loved ones to it, like this and this.
Now I’m not saying that cancer patients have no control over their outcomes, from proactively seeking out innovative new treatments to making positive lifestyle changes. But you can’t ignore a major factor: luck.
Those like Senator McCain, who have been diagnosed with glioblastoma drew the short straw in terms of luck. I’m not saying there are not long-term survivors of glioblastomas. There are. But they are few and those who are still here are here due to luck. Let’s have a quick lesson as to why glioblastomas are so deadly.
Now I do have a few small brain tumors that are breast cancer metastasis. Breast cancer brain mets have much better defined edges which makes them easier to surgically remove with clear margins and makes them easier to radiate. In addition, they are Her2 positive, so that opens up more treatment options as far as targeted therapy that crosses the blood-brain barrier. Having cancerous lesions in your brain is never a good thing but if it has to happen to you, having Her2 positive breast cancer mets that can be treated with stereotactic radiation (as opposed to whole brain) is one of the better situations. Having a glioblastomas is one of the worst.
But living with advanced cancer is a roller coaster. Today I feel comparatively lucky. Tomorrow, I may be on the wrong side of luck again. Ultimately, I will likely die of cancer – either the actual cancer or the treatments. I’ve accepted that. After all, we all have to die of something. My goal is to hold it off for decades. My goal is to be like these women. I have the determination, the great doctors, the resources, the mental toughness. What I need is the luck. Will I get it? Only time will tell.
To close this out, I want to encourage you to educate yourself and consider donating to research. That is the best way to honor Senator McCain and others with brain tumors.